How Reskill Americans is Providing Software Development Training to Underrepresented Minorities

In an effort to continue connecting students to tech careers, SwitchUp recently teamed up with Reskill Americans to spread their mission of increasing underrepresented minorities' access to careers in tech. SwitchUp's parent company, Optimal, has also added the founder of Reskill Americans, Femi Akinde, to our Board of Advisors. We are excited about welcoming Femi to the team and look forward to utilizing his expertise on the issue of race and career training in technology.

“Reskill Americans is thrilled to collaborate with an organization that provides access to information on software development training through their reviews,” said Femi Akinde, Co-Founder of Reskill Americans. “We know that access is a powerful thing, which is why we are increasing access to careers in tech by scaling tuition-free software development training to thousands of underrepresented minorities per session.”

We're excited to share more information about Reskill Americans, their mission, and their offerings.

We know that access is a powerful thing, which is why we are increasing access to careers in tech by scaling tuition-free software development training to thousands of underrepresented minorities per session.

What is Reskill Americans?

Reskill Americans is a nonprofit that scales up tuition-free software development training and mentorship to unemployed, underemployed and career switching underrepresented minorities across the U.S. to help them launch a career path in tech. To enroll, participants must be an underrepresented racial minority, eligible to work in the U.S, and have a computer with internet access and a LinkedIn profile. Participants who complete the seven-month program will have applied their new skills to software development projects, worked on cross-functional teams, and built a portfolio of work to show future employers.

Reskill Americans was founded in 2020, and their inaugural session launched in March 2021. The company was founded by tech veterans who want to live in a world where minority representation in the tech sector more closely reflects their numbers in the overall U.S. population. Reskill American's mission is to increase access to careers in tech for unemployed, underemployed and career-changing underrepresented racial minorities.

What is the Reskill Americans training program?

The remote learning program is a rigorous seven-month course (a minimum of 15 hours a week), and is taught through a range of formats on an LMS: recorded and live video sessions, training modules, and chats/office hours with instructors and mentors. Participants choose to learn one of two tracks: Full Stack Web Development or Product Design. The online training is divided into four phases:

Intro Phase – Orientation

The Intro phase provides an orientation to the Reskill Americans training program and the tracks. Participants will learn about available career opportunities, the basic building blocks of a webpage, and will become familiar with the tools and foundational concepts of their track. By the end of this phase, participants will have selected a track.

[ 4 weeks ]

Phase I – Skills Building

Project-based learning varies by track, but over these five months, participants will apply the skills they’re learning from the curriculum and exercises to individual mini projects. Ultimately, through these projects, they will demonstrate mastery of their newly-acquired skills to create a full stack application. Their final individual project will be a complete hosted application, which will be an excellent addition to their portfolio, and must be completed to move to Phase II.

[ 20 weeks ]

Phase II - Team Projects

Participants are grouped into teams for a final team project. They will keep their teams aligned to goals, and get weekly mentoring. Each team will present their finished project at a final Demo Day to cap off the program. Participants who complete Phase II will receive a Certificate of Completion in Web Development or Product Design.

[ 4 weeks ]

Job Prep and Community Support

Throughout every phase of the program, we work with participants each week on their job preparedness skills. Reskill Americans hosts weekly Town Hall meetings with experts from the tech industry, as well as Job Fairs with employers interested in participants. They provide training in how to write an effective resume and LinkedIn profile, and how to promote work on GitHub. And finally, the company offers training sessions on the technical interview process, and offer mock interviews with experienced developers/designers. After seven months, the training program ends, but job prep support continues. Resources will still be available to participants, and mentors will help introduce them to recruiters and to relevant opportunities. In 2021, some of the companies who participated in our virtual events included: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Bright Machines, WarnerMedia, BlackRock and SoftwareONE. Please visit our YouTube Channel to learn more.

To enroll, participants must be an underrepresented racial minority, eligible to work in the U.S, have a computer with internet access, and have a LinkedIn profile. More details are available on their learn more page.

What was the makeup of the first cohort?

In March 2021, more than 2,000 historically underrepresented racial minorities from 42 U.S. states enrolled in the inaugural seven-month program; almost 900 of them became active participants, and more than 130 completed our program in October 2021. Among them, 58% identify as women, 60% have college degrees, and 15% have graduate degrees. They have experience in a range of industries, from education and social work to customer service and government. The majority of them (37%) have 10-15 years of work experience, 31% have five years or less, and 10% have 20-25 years of work experience.

Throughout the program, participants juggled full-time jobs along with new projects they picked up through the program, such as one woman who started helping a company develop their mobile app, and another who got a job doing front-end work for a church website. This diverse, cross-track session also included a husband-and-wife team, both former middle-school teachers, who are determined to earn a better income to support their children. Their website includes additional information about the participants.

What does the future look like for Reskill Americans?

Reskill American's long-term goal is for minority representation in the tech industry to mirror their actual representation in the U.S. population. To do that, they hope to rapidly scale up access to software development training to as many underrepresented minorities as possible so that they can create career paths in tech.

In five to ten years, Reskill Americans hopes that more than 10,000 underrepresented minorities will be signing up to their programs on a regular basis.

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