Posted February 25, 2020 by Mark Perna
Crippled by student loans, 24-year-old Amro Manaa applied for tech positions for nearly two years. Then—pay dirt. Mark’s article, “$30k Deep In Student Debt, This Gen-Z Man Found A Way To Break Into Tech,” published at Forbes.com on February 25, 2020.
To triumph in today’s ever-tightening labor market, employers must be intentional about creating and strengthening initiatives that grow talent from unexpected places. Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a NYC-based nonprofit founded in 2005 by Dr. Arthur Langer, is dedicated to doing just that. By helping companies diversify and custom-train their workforce, and empowering high-potential workers to upskill while earning a wage, WOS is tackling the labor shortage—and changing lives in the process.
In earlier posts, I shared the stories of two Gen-Zers who greatly benefited from WOS’s pioneering contract internship model: 23-year-old Bronx native Mohammad Khan, who catapulted from minimum wage to life-changing marketability as an IT specialist, and 23-year-old college grad Lliana Hwang, who, despite her hard-earned four-year tech degree, was underemployed—working at a bakery—until WOS gave her the breakthrough she needed.
Now, meet Gen-Zer Amro Manaa, a 24-year-old college grad from Queens, New York, whose heavy student loan debt prevented him from getting the additional training he needed to land a fulfilling job in the tech space. That is, until he found WOS.
Amro had always been fascinated by technology and, for as long as he could remember, he wanted to work within that world. He also bought into our culture’s college-centric narrative that promises a good job upon graduation. But like Lliana, along with many other Gen-Zers and younger Millennials, Amro discovered that a four-year degree on its own wasn’t enough for him to land a “real job.”
“I come from humble beginnings,” explains Amro. “My mom was a bus driver, and my dad works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. But they had high hopes for me. Yet after graduating from college, I had $30,000 in student loan debt—and no job to show for it. I applied for tech positions for nearly two years, but despite my degree, I didn’t have the level of experience required.”
Working odd jobs, like delivering for Panera and serving customers at the deli counter at Whole Foods, Amro could barely keep up with his student loan payments, let alone afford to take the coding workshop he needed to get a tech job. Then he discovered the WOS/PSEG partnership program.
“I was accepted into the WOS program, and they not only paid $15,000 for a coding boot camp, but also gave me a weekly stipend and provided classes in interpersonal skills. And then they placed me in a great tech position at PSEG in Long Island.”
Today, thanks to WOS, Amro is realizing his dreams. “I am working as a DevOps engineer, finally living on my own, and paying down my student loans. And starting in May, I expect to be making in the high five figures—obviously, a huge jump from my odd jobs.”College debt can put a stranglehold on many young people’s careers, limiting their options and trapping them in less-than-ideal circumstances. Click To Tweet
College debt can put a stranglehold on many young people’s careers, limiting their options and trapping them in less-than-ideal circumstances. At one time, Amro’s student loans threatened to stall his career aspirations for good. But like Mohammad, Lliana and many more Gen-Zers, Amro is using his contract internship to take flight—and soar toward a bright future.