May 07, 2012, 1:36 PM — Arthur M. Langer is chairman and founder of Workforce Opportunity Services, a nonprofit that uses an outsourcing model to train economically disadvantaged youth and match them with hard-to-fill IT positions. Langer's "skills first" approach stresses getting vocational training and a job upfront, and then gradually fulfilling general education requirements part time to finish a degree in five to six years -- leaving students with no debt. And since many families today can't afford the cost of college tuition, Langer's model is one that could have much broader appeal.
What is Workforce Opportunity Services' mission? It started as a research project about 11 years ago with a group from Harlem, an underserved population. Colleges can't handle nontraditional, underserved populations, and corporations also have difficulty assimilating that type of talent.
Training is not the challenge. These kids need to work because they don't have any money for school. They end up working 35 hours per week, and before long they can't do it. They drop out. Meanwhile, many companies can't find talent because no one wants to go into that discipline or they can't get people at competitive rates.