Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and PayPal have jumped on in support of General Assembly’s Opportunity Fund scholarship program. Opportunity Fund gives scholarships to women, veterans and minorities to participate in GA’s 12-week Web Development Immersive (WDI) course.
“Tech is the future of all industry and I want it to look like the world we live in,” said Ohanian about why he wanted to get involved. Google (through its Google for Entrepreneurs program), Microsoft, Hirepurpose and Nas (yes, the rapper) already support the program, which rolled out in New York City this last April.
The added support means GA can now expand its program to both Los Angeles and San Francisco as well. This expansion comes at a crucial time for Silicon Valley, especially. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and most recently Apple have all released diversity figures in the last few months. Every one of them show a workforce that is mostly male and white. But as Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg told USA Today,”The issue is not releasing the data. The issue is moving the numbers.”
General Assembly CEO Jake Schwartz believes the fund is a solution to moving those numbers. “One of the coolest things I’ve seen is the level of diversity in just one course,” he told me. He said the first batch of students in the WDI program wasn’t quite 50-50 but it was pretty close. Schwartz was adamant this fund could help close the gap. “Gender bias is real. The numbers back it up. Just as pervasive is the socio-economic divide. The Opportunity Fund represents just a small step toward creating a more diverse workforce,” he said.
The total cost of WDI is normally $11,500 for the full 12 weeks. Scholarship recipients get a 75% fee waiver to participate as well as some pretty hefty promises of support. PayPal plans to help recipients with placement after the program by setting up meetings with internal engineers and hiring managers. Ohanian says he will personally mentor recipients for a year. He also plans to set up interviews for those going through the program with at least one of his portfolio companies. GA helps students find jobs and gives them interview prep following the program as well.
The scholarship program asks potentials to commit to at least 100 hours of volunteer service helping to mentoring underprivileged youth at tech education nonprofits including All Star Code, Black Girls Code, CodeNow, Coderdojo and ScriptEd.