Its a Tuesday afternoon, and a group of 14 students have gathered in the back room of a computer lab at Columbia University in New York City.
Its a sociology class, and the focus of todays session is the science of learning. The atmosphere is casual and conversational, though slightly hesitant as class begins, so the professor prompts the students with a few pointed questions.
Soon enough, students are chatting openly, discussing the benefits and drawbacks of cramming for exams, and sharing tricks for carving out time from their busy schedules to devote to studying.
At first glance, it seems like any ordinary college-level class. But this class isnt ordinary.
It is the first group of students organized by WOS (Workforce Outsource Services), a nonprofit firm that is working to train and employ inner-city and disadvantaged students in IT positions at large and small businesses throughout the country.
Founded in 2005, WOS is the brainchild of Dr. Arthur Langer, the instruction and curricular development chairman of Columbia Universitys Continuing Education Technology Programs, and a faculty member in the universitys Graduate School of Education.
Langer conceived the program after completing a four-year study of New York Citys Housing and Urban Development Adult Education Program, which provides grants for low-level skills education in technology.
Though the program originally aimed to give participants skills to help them find tech jobs, Langer concluded that technical training alone wouldnt be enough to prepare disadvantaged youth to compete in IT careers.
“A lot of these young adults need a combination of training and study programs,” says Langer.
“We need to help them gain real business skills and training from a quality institution so they can effectively build their careers.”