Pursuit Bonds, Funded by Inherent Foundation, Helps Provide Workforce Training for Disadvantaged New Yorkers
Jukay Hsu is an enthusiastic Amazon backer. He wanted the company to build a big new campus in New York and participated in wooing it. He met with Amazon executives and appeared in a video pitch, and his tech-training program for disadvantaged New Yorkers was cited in the city’s written proposal to the company.
But Mr. Hsu said he also understood the local resistance to Amazon, and why it had won out.
“I believe tech can be a road to the middle class for large numbers of Americans,” said Mr. Hsu, a co-founder and the chief executive of Pursuit, a nonprofit social venture. “But there’s real skepticism about that among people who see the winners in technology as a small network of the privileged.”
He is using Pursuit, housed in a former zipper factory in Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood where Amazon had intended to locate, to try to prove those skeptics wrong.
The venture is a small yet innovative player in a growing number of nonprofits developing new models for work force training. Their overarching goal is upward mobility for low-income Americans and the two-thirds of workers without four-year college degrees.
Pursuit, according to its donors and to work force experts, stands out for the size of the income gains of its graduates and its experiment with a kind of bond to finance growth. It is a program worth watching, they say, and beginning to attract attention nationally.
About 85 percent of Pursuit’s 300 graduates have landed well-paying tech jobs within a year. They work as software engineers both at major corporations like JPMorgan Chase and at start-ups like Oscar Health. They earn $85,000 a year on average, compared with $18,000 before the Pursuit program...