By Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two longtime friends have teamed up to help jobless tech workers, giving for free a training program that would normally cost thousands of dollars a person.

More than 150 people, many in the middle of their career, come to Larry Apke’s class live virtual class looking for a new technology job. He started teaching the free course several years ago.

“It really almost broke my heart to see these people. A lot of them were struggling, maybe unemployed for the first time in their careers,” Apke said.

Apke and Dave Rawlings, friends since childhood, founded The Job Hackers in San Francisco three years ago. Drawing on the pair’s technology background the all-volunteer nonprofit is bringing diversity to the tech industry.

The average age of participants is 43 years old. Half are ethnic minorities. Six in 10 are women returning to the workforce.

“They get up to speed on the modern way of thinking ’cause they’ve dropped out to take care of someone older or younger, and they have a gap and they can’t make it back in,” Rawlings said.

The Job Hackers’ six-week, 18-hour course teaches Agile and Scrum, the new language and way of working in tech. 750 people in the Bay Area and around the world have gone through the curriculum.

It prepares them to test for their Professional Scrum Master certification. Rawlings says many graduates are getting management jobs; half earn a six-figure salary.

“It’s a pretty diverse group,” Rawlings said. “They are getting jobs, 30-40 percent even in today’s environment, and they are getting jobs within 90 days of taking the class.”

Lisa Huang-North landed a job as a product manager.

“Having the skills I gained from the program, I was able to work with engineering literally from day one,” she said.

Huang-North has also taken advantage of the program’s networking and mentorship: first, as a student, and later, as a volunteer mentor.

Instead of paying for classes, Job Hackers asks participants to donate their time in the community.

Valerie Freitas, who’s got a job as a project manager, was glad to give.

“Paying it forward makes you feel good, so I think it’s a win-win all around for everybody,” Freitas said.

It’s also a win-win for Apke and Rawlings.

“It’s just this wonderful feeling of knowing what we have done is contributing to the well-being of somebody else,” Apke said.

So for providing free training for the unemployed and bringing diversity to the tech industry, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Larry Apke and Dave Rawlings.

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