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Cortex and tech nonprofit to train people of color and women for cybersecurity jobs

Per Scholas Training 4.jpg
Per Scholas
The Cortex Innovation Community and the technology nonprofit Per Scholas will offer a free, 15-week cybersecurity training for people of color and women interested in tech careers.

The Cortex Innovation Community and Per Scholas, a technology training nonprofit, are collaborating to help create technology career opportunities for people of color and women with a 15-week cybersecurity program.

The free course, which will begin June 17, aims to prepare 20 participants for positions such as cybersecurity analyst, junior desktop technicians and technical support engineers.

People of color and women are underrepresented in the technology field because they have trouble getting hired and often cannot afford training programs, Per Scholas St. Louis managing director Charlie Mackey Jr. said.

“Historically, underrepresented peoples aren't working in the tech fields, because they're like, ‘Well, I have to go to the West Coast, or it's not available here,’” Mackey said. “By coming here, we can not only help bridge that gap, but also reframe it to where you can get that technology training right here, and then find a job here.”

Participants in the training program will learn how to set up computer networks and firewalls, troubleshoot IP addresses, identify network issues and defend against cyber threats. The program will also cover effective communication, customer service skills and how to document and submit technology requests tickets.

Mackey said business owners often say it's hard to find qualified applicants for tech jobs. He said in St. Louis, there are nearly 6,000 open technology positions.

“It's a big problem here,” said Sam Fiorello, Cortex president and CEO. “We decided we wanted to go after something big, important, critical not only on an individual employer basis, but for our regional aspirations to be a national and global leader in technology.”

He said with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in St. Louis and other technology companies moving to the region, there will be a demand for tech workers. Ensuring that there is a diverse pool of applicants could help boost the presence of people of color and women.

After completing the course, participants will be connected with potential employers by the cybersecurity program. Program directors will work with the trainees for two years to try to match them with careers.

Fiorello hopes the program provides area companies with skilled workers of color who will then have the chance to pursue higher-paying jobs.

“We want these folks, not just to be entry-level cybersecurity employees,” Fiorello said. “We want them to have a path towards eventually some of them will compete for C-suite jobs.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist 

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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