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In 2016, Larry Apke attended a ProMatch networking meeting for people seeking work in Silicon Valley. As he surveyed the crowded room, what he saw moved him immensely.

“I was touched by two things,” recalled Apke. “First, many looked very shocked and confused. For many, it had been some time since they had to look for work. Second, I was amazed at the sheer level of talent in that room.”

Apke saw promise in their potential. He believed that many of these people could secure employment with a little training. So in October 2017, alongside business partner Dave Rawlings, Apke launched The Job Hackers. Given his multi-decade career in software development, Apke was well-equipped to design a syllabus that outlined a software development philosophy known as Agile, as well as a framework for its implementation, known as Scrum.

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The first Job Hackers class was made up of seven people in Sunnyvale.

“Of that first pilot class, I recall that three or four received job offers shortly after completing the class,” Apke said. “It was then that I knew I was onto something that could be impactful.”

This pilot class would later become known as the Agile MBA, a free course that promises the ability to obtain Agile certification, as well as the potential for placement as a Scrum Master or Agile Project Manager.

“We estimate that through the class alone we have given away over $2.5 million worth of education,” Apke said. “We refer to it as the best education money can’t buy.”

Job Hackers cofounder Larry Apke.

In addition to the Agile MBA, Job Hackers offers monthly meetups, resume review workshops, mock interviews and job placement assistance. The entire operation is run by volunteers. Meanwhile, those who benefit from these services hail from dozens of countries. Roughly two-thirds of participants are women, and roughly half are people of color.

“We serve anyone who can benefit from the education and services we have to offer,” Apke said. “We have no prerequisites except a desire to learn, and the ability to use Zoom.”

Job Hackers’ success rates prove appealing to new students. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 40 percent of Job Hackers students found work within 90 days of completing the Agile MBA course. About 25 percent of students took the Professional Scrum Master certification exam, and more than 90 percent passed on their first attempt.

Before the pandemic limited in-person interaction, Job Hackers was housed in the InCommon Community Space in downtown San Francisco. Since pivoting to online delivery, the organization has seen rapid growth in enrollment.

“Our current class has over 325 (students) enrolled from over 20 different countries and all over the U.S.,” Apke told me in April. This month, Apke reports, “We continue to have classes around 200 with multiple countries represented.”

In January, Apke and Rawlings were awarded a silver Jefferson Award for Public Service. They aim to increase their impact, but the nonprofit is constrained by a tight yearly operating budget of roughly $10,000.

“Dollar for dollar, we are one of the most impactful nonprofits in existence; however, we have yet to reach the foundations and big ticket donors that could really scale our impact,” Apke said. “I remain patient that as we continue to do our excellent work, eventually these people will begin to pay attention.”

Support The Job Hackers’ mission here.

Excerpts from this story were originally published at LocalNewsMatters.org

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Lydia Sviatoslavsky

Lydia Sviatoslavsky

Lydia Sviatoslavsky covers culture and curiosities for Bay City News and Broke-Ass Stuart. She publishes artist interviews and experimental writing at thought-rot.net. You can find her on Instagram at @rot_thought.

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