Tech Upskilling Cohort To Host First Wilmington Class

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Mar 15, 2024
Charlotte-based Stiegler EdTech's Careers in Technology Apprenticeship Cohort (CTAC) will host its first group of about 42 Wilmingtonians this summer. (Photo courtesy of Stiegler EdTech)
An organization using technology jobs to improve upward mobility is bringing its program to Wilmington.

Charlotte-based Stiegler EdTech oversees multiple tech workforce programs, including its Careers in Technology Apprenticeship Cohort (CTAC), which will host its first group of about 42 Wilmingtonians this summer. The company takes a holistic approach to developing tech talent, which is something the city of Wilmington has devoted attention to in recent years.

Pasha Maher, Stiegler EdTech’s co-founder and chief advancement officer, once worked at one of the largest banks in the country and found that the pool of eligible hires was homogenous, he said. That observation combined with Charlotte’s low score on an upward mobility study spurred the creation of Stiegler EdTech in 2017.

The organization's purpose is to put skill before everything else in technology hiring. The group administers an application test to anyone interested in entering the paid cohort for a job in technology. No higher education or coding experience is required.

The selection process is competitive with about 5% of applicants accepted. The deadline for this summer’s cohort is March 18, although it will likely be extended, Maher said. Once the cohort is selected, the hiring rate is a selling point.

“Of our 189 graduates, I think 99% of them got moved into full-time jobs. The one exception we ended up placing somewhere else,” Maher said during an information session held at the Live Oak Bank campus this week.

Wages are also a selling point for the organization. Starting salaries for graduates of CTAC are advertised as at least $55,000 with many graduates receiving more money one or two years after being hired. Half of CTAC graduates were unemployed before entering the program, Maher said, and the other half have a median income of $21,000.

“Our goal is, ‘Who's good? Who didn't get the chance?’” Maher said. “And there's so many people who can qualify for that.”

Maher and his team have been in talks with local workforce development organizations connected to the city of Wilmington for years, said Kate Groat, Live Oak Bank’s director of corporate philanthropy and co-chair of the Tech Talent Collaborative hosted by Cape Fear Collective. Stiegler EdTech signed a deal with the City of Wilmington in December to organize its first cohort.

CTAC had placed several graduates at Live Oak Bank and Live Oak’s spinoff company nCino while operating out of Charlotte. This year’s group of participating employers is not locked down yet, but Maher said they have received interest from multiple local companies. Cohort members are given a custom training experience for a specific job throughout the 24-week process and are paired with a company from early on in the course.

“It’s a huge benefit for us (employers) to have people who hit the ground running, and they come to work, day one, ready to take on work and jump into projects and work on a team and contribute,” Groat said.

Companies that partner with Stielger EdTech fund the process, paying a recruitment fee that goes toward paying the cohort members for their time. This allows those in the cohort to focus on their skills training without stressing about money, Maher said.

The city of Wilmington sent out a request for proposals to workforce development organizations after finding a gap in local employers’ ability to train and upskill home-grown talent, said Meaghan Dennison, the former CEO of Cape Fear Collective and current executive director of the Pay It Forward Fund.

Funding for the “Bridge the Digital Skills Gap and Workforce Development” program came from federal money Wilmington received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which the city received after the start of the pandemic. Approximately $2.5 million in ARPA funding will go toward tech workforce development, according to a 2022 release from the city.

“I see our role as really ensuring that the supply and demand can match,” Dennison said.

Cape Fear Collective and the Tech Talent Collaborative have helped communicate CTAC’s mission to local employers and ensure there are enough participating employers to hire selected cohort members.

In her talks with employers, Dennison said, “Folks are really pleased to see this opportunity come into our region… it's about many different pathways to get talent into the doors of local employers at these high wages. Stiegler (EdTech) just being a piece of that.”
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