New Skill, Fresh Start: How Persevere Helps Previously Incarcerated Individuals Land Jobs in Tech
By combining technology education with career coaching, Persevere fills those tech jobs while giving incarcerated individuals the tools needed to reenter the workforce.
With locations in Arizona, Tennessee, and South Carolina, the organization has helped hundreds of people change their lives.
How it started
Sean Hosman is the founder of Persevere. For the past 25 years, he’s been running a technology company, Vant4ge, that builds assessments for departments of corrections. And, at the peak of his career, he began struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
He was in and out of jail 12 times in 2 years, but was able to recover with the support of his family and the fact that had his own company in the tech industry to return to. He realized that without his company, the situation would’ve looked much different — so he set out to help others who don’t have the same opportunities upon release.
“He thought, rather than just helping people detox and find one-off jobs, why don’t we create something that can teach people a skill that they can turn into a full-time career?” said Zach Hosman, Sean’s son and cofounder of Persevere.
As a regional director for Persevere, Zach led the organization’s efforts in Arizona and is now starting the program in South Carolina. He’s responsible for implementing and managing Persevere’s educational progra-ms within institutions and community agencies.
“It’s been a really cool experience to be able to work with my dad,” said Zach. “We get to help other people truly change their lives and get on the path to success.”
How it works
Sean knew from his experience in the tech industry that it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your background is. There’s a high demand for developers — so if you know how to code, you’ll get hired.
“In very basic terms, we teach people to code, get them a job, and watch them succeed,” said Zach.
The mission is simple, but there are many components that make up the Persevere program. First, only eligible students are selected to participate. Eligibility criteria is set up with the help of local departments of corrections and vary by state. Persevere hosts informational sessions at participating facilities to provide prospective students with resources and an application to get started. The final step of the selection process includes an interview.
“Everything can look good on paper, but we really want to make sure prospects will fit the program,” said Zach. “We can teach anyone how to code, but not everyone wants to learn. Even though it sounds like this phenomenal program and prospects want the skills and the opportunity, it just might not be for them.”
What it teaches
The program teaches full stack web development, with three certifications in both front end and back end development. Students take classes five days a week, for six hours a day, over the course of 12 months. The program helps them create a portfolio, enhance their soft skills, build a resume, while providing guidance on how to discuss their record with potential employers.
As their program progressed, Persevere noticed that this type of career coaching was essential to student success. “We realized that we had these amazing full stack developers who were released from prison, but still needed more of a transition period,” said Zach. “It was hard for them to adjust from this learning environment in prison to the workforce.”
That’s when Persevere launched Banyan Labs, a company that provides other businesses with web development services. Banyan Labs hires 100% of Persevere graduates, so every person that completes the program works for Banyan Labs for at least six months to get acclimated to jobs in tech.
“They’re around people who have patience with them as they see their kids for the first time in five to ten years, or have to leave work to meet with a parole officer,” said Zach. “It’s an understanding group that works with real clients on real-world projects.” Banyan Labs also provides senior developers and other mentors to help jumpstart the new graduates to become full contributing members of a dev team.
The end result
Some of the instructors for Persevere’s courses are graduates of boot camps powered by Trilogy Education Services, a 2U Inc. brand, and both educational tracks are very similar. Zach believes this is ideal, as instructors who come out of Trilogy boot camps can further practice the skills they’ve just learned, and Persevere’s students receive a high-quality level of instruction that sets them up for success.
“All of our developers really changed their life course. They go from a lifestyle they’ve been struggling with for years and flip that 180 degrees,” said Zach. “They’re paying rent, have their own apartments — they’re able to see their kids, buy a car, and have a sustainable job. They are who they want to be. And that’s true success.”