The nonprofit COOP is seeking to bring its social capital–focused program to more college partners. The model is low-cost and replicable, according to Kalani Leifer,
COOP’s founder and CEO.
The career accelerator’s 16-week, 200-hour training tracks in digital marketing, data analytics, or tech sales are offered at no cost to low-income and first-generation college graduates. The program can be free largely because alumni “captains” teach the curriculum.
“COOP exists today because of the pay-it-forward mind-set of our alumni,” Leifer says. “Each cohort is led by a team of four cohort captains, near-peer program alumni who serve as coaches, mentors, and guides on top of busy day jobs at local ad agencies and tech companies.”
Captains commit to at least 125 hours of working with a new cohort, after they complete 25-plus hours of leadership training. Many of COOP’s alumni have signed on more than once as captains, says Leifer, with some returning four or five times. That experience can help them advance in their jobs.
“Relationships pull us into meaningful careers,” says Leifer. “As cohort captains, alumni are growing their peer professional networks and advancing their leadership skills.
The program’s cost of delivery is $6,500 per student, roughly equal to the annual maximum award of a federal Pell Grant. COOP typically covers that cost with contributions from employer sponsors and other partners.
“Higher education is under increasing pressure to demonstrate compelling employment outcomes, and we anticipate focused financial aid funding may follow—perhaps even as an incremental bridge year of ‘Pell plus’ support,” Leifer says.
‘A Flywheel of a Network’:
Climb Hire’s 200-hour learning tracks
for entry-level tech jobs also are free to its students, who are working adults from low-income communities and are not required to hold a college degree. Participants get a $1K stipend when they complete.
Graduates help pay for the program through a financing structure
that in some ways resembles an outcomes-based loan
. If they land a stable, salaried role, alumni pay $150 per month for four years—a total of $7,200.
In addition, at least 45% of alumni return as fellows, where they help four or five current students.
Fellows are both guides and role models, says Nitzan Pelman
, Climb Hire’s CEO and founder. She says fellows are the main reason 80% of the program’s participants land good jobs.
“It’s a leadership opportunity, too. So companies love it,” Pelman says of the role fellows play. “We’re really creating a flywheel of a network.”
Pelman shared a message from a participant who had struggled in school. The student thought their “future would be limited to retail and physical labor jobs” until arriving at Climb Hire. “Everyone has their own pace for success, and though it may be a tough and potentially very long road ahead, I refuse to let my failures define me.”