Pursuit, an innovative social impact organization whose mission is to close the prosperity gap in America, transforms the lives of New Yorkers from low-income backgrounds through a no-cost training program that teaches its Fellows to write code and become software developers. Pursuit takes a multi-pronged approach that includes the Fellowship, the Bond, and Employer Partnerships. Fellows who complete their training and are job ready leave low-paying jobs for software engineering positions with leading companies like Peloton, Uber, Foursquare, and more, all while receiving three additional years of on-the-job mentorship, professional development, and support. On average, Fellows go from making $18,000 pre-program to $90,000 after landing their first engineering job, or an increase in lifetime earnings of over $2,000,000.
The program, aside from being a path to economic transformation and social mobility in underserved communities, is an innovative and sustainable model that both provides companies with trained, diverse talent and supports long-term retention, which ultimately drives larger business goals. “Pursuit works directly with companies to secure hiring commitments, which results in equitable employment practices, improved workplace culture, and on-the-job support,” said Jukay Hsu, Pursuit CEO and Co-Founder. Pursuit recruits its diverse talent pipeline from 100% low-income individuals from underrepresented communities with approximately 30% between the ages of 18-24, who are typically unemployed or underemployed. Major accomplishments include: an 84% graduation rate, 77% job placement rate, and 76% retention. Since 2014, Pursuit has empowered over 400 people to get hired in tech jobs.
Pursuit has set a goal to serve an additional 1,000 unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers over the next three years, empowering them to pursue an additional $1 billion in lifetime earnings by 2024. The Mizuho USA Foundation has provided a grant to fund Pursuit’s Bridge to Technology program (Bridge), a gateway effort to recruit and prepare more young adults for the Fellows tech training. Currently, there are hundreds of motivated individuals each year who apply, but need and deserve additional support. Bridge programming provides that support with the goal of scaling up the program and better job readiness and hiring for each class of trainees upon completion of the Fellows training.
The five-week, full-time Bridge course conducted live online teaches skills in areas that are crucial for future software engineers to master, such as foundational math, logic and critical thinking, general career readiness skills, and entry-level coding. Once applicants successfully complete Bridge, they bypass the Pursuit admissions process and go straight to the final interview.
Once admitted, program participants lacking access to hardware and software are supplied a loaner laptop, Wi-Fi hotspots, and wraparound support and referrals during the program. Pursuit plans to execute the programming at minimum of three times a year, embedding Bridge into its own recruitment cycle. This expansion is the first step in scaling a program that has the potential to serve hundreds more low-income adults and young adults across New York City.
Pursuit not only offers opportunity, but serves as a partner and patron of its participants through its Pursuit Bond (Bond) funding model that facilitates financial support from Fellows for future classes.
The Bond brings together Fellows, Pursuit, and social impact investors to drive long-term, positive change. This innovative approach enables the creation of high-quality programs while reducing the nonprofit’s reliance on grants and donations, particularly given limited philanthropic dollars. Fellows who participate in Pursuit programs are not required to make any upfront payments. Instead, they commit to paying a percentage of their gross earnings over a predetermined period of time once they secure well-paying jobs. This income sharing agreement ensures that Fellows are not burdened by financial obligations until they are in a stable position to contribute. If their salary falls below a certain level, they pay nothing. If they stop working for any reason, their payments pause.
The Bond, as well as partnerships with companies like Mizuho, supports Pursuit in securing vital funding to expand the reach of their programs. “We are here to solve a massive opportunity divide and shift the narrative on what it means to hire and develop talented people,” explains Hsu. “We have a holistic model that includes grassroots community outreach, training, employer services, and innovative financing. Each part is crucial in providing long-term solutions – for our Fellows, for workforce development, and the wider tech industry.