[FoRK] A Work-Study Program for U.S. Tech Students

Jim Whitehead ejw at cs.ucsc.edu
Thu Jan 28 04:10:12 PST 2010

This article implies that the students are being paid below-market 
wages. I wonder how long they must work for their sponsoring company.

- Jim

Stephen Williams wrote:
> We need more of this, although it would be nice if this kind of thing 
> didn't depend totally on getting a slot in an uber-large corporation.  
> Something that would work for smaller businesses, government agencies, 
> etc. would be good to flesh this out.  Plus it obviously needs to be 
> much more widespread.
> http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/nov2009/tc20091111_828204.htm?link_position=link9 
>> A Work-Study Program for U.S. Tech Students
>> Low-income kids can get experience and a degree in six years, with no 
>> debt and a job at the end, thanks to Workforce Outsource Services
>> By Steve Hamm
>> Technology
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>> Many within techdom complain about U.S. companies that use cheap, 
>> offshore labor or guest foreign workers in place of domestic 
>> employees. Few are doing much about it. A noteworthy exception is 
>> Arthur Langer. His New York nonprofit organization, Workforce 
>> Outsource Services, is trying to provide alternatives to foreign tech 
>> workers, including those on H-1B visas, by granting scholarships to 
>> low-income students and placing them in multiyear work-study programs 
>> in companies while they work toward undergraduate degrees. "We have 
>> an incredible source of talent in this country that can work for 
>> competitive prices," says Langer, a technology consultant and 
>> professor at Columbia University. "You don't have to go to India for 
>> labor."
>> The organization began as an academic project nine years ago, became 
>> a company in 2005, and is now expanding in New York, New Jersey, and 
>> Ohio. So far, 120 students have graduated, and a further 65 are 
>> enrolled. Langer ultimately hopes to put thousands of youngsters 
>> through the program. He believes it's at a turning point. "We have 
>> proved it can work, and we're scaling up now," he says.
>> Langer, an expert in technology management, began the project after 
>> seeing many young people from poor communities go to college but fail 
>> to complete degree programs. The reason: They are under intense 
>> pressure to get into the workforce and earn money, or they are averse 
>> to piling up loan debt without the certainty that they will get good 
>> jobs after graduation. So he founded Workforce Outsource Services to 
>> help students earn degrees without financial strain.
>> Motivated and Disciplined
>> Here's how the service works: Young people are invited to a six-week 
>> orientation program where they meet in a group with Workforce 
>> Outsourcing Services trainers once a week. From that group the most 
>> motivated and disciplined candidates are selected. They participate 
>> in an intensive IT training program at a university and then begin 
>> working part time for corporations while they go to school part time 
>> and finish their undergraduate degrees. "The goal is for people to 
>> graduate in six years with a degree, technology certification, no 
>> debt, and a job," Langer says.
>> Valeria Rodriguez, an 18-year-old from Somerset, N.J., learned about 
>> the program a year ago when she was in high school. "It was too 
>> perfect," she says. She is now participating in a certification 
>> program at Rutgers University and working at Galaxy Systems, a 
>> provider of IT consulting and other services in Somerset. "It's hard 
>> today for college graduates to get a job," she says. "I won't have 
>> debt when I finish college, and I'll have plenty of work experience."
>> Participating companies make donations to help cover operating costs 
>> and tuition payments, plus pay salaries to the students. They include 
>> Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), MedcoHealth Solutions (MHS), and Prudential 
>> Financial (PRU). Nonprofit organizations, such as New York's Museum 
>> of Modern Art, are allowed to participate without making donations.
>> The program works well for employers, says Steve Peltzman, MOMA's 
>> chief information officer. He initially hired one of Langer's 
>> students for the museum's tech help desk. That went so well that he 
>> now uses other students to monitor the data center, which houses 
>> computing for the museum. One person with higher-level skills managed 
>> a software programming project. "You get all of the monetary benefits 
>> of offshoring and none of the negatives," Peltzman says. "And you're 
>> doing social good."
>> Langer's program is still relatively small, but if it grows as 
>> rapidly as he hopes, it could begin to do a whole lot of social good. 
>> He's working on that—right now negotiating with people at the 
>> University of Missouri in an effort to get the program going in St. 
>> Louis. Says Langer: "We have to show the country this can work."
>> Hamm is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York and author of 
>> the Globespotting blog.
> sdw
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