This Job Training Program Wants Payback From Students

Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll look at an innovative nonprofit that trains low-income workers to become software engineers — and tangled with a state agency that threatened a cease-and-desist order and possibly criminal prosecution.

Credit…Carly Zavala for The New York Times

Job training is one of those things that everybody talks about, or at least that economists and policymakers talk about. Pursuit, an innovative nonprofit in Queens, has done something about it, helping to lift low-income workers into good-paying jobs as software engineers. But it tangled with the state’s Education Departmentbecause it operates differently from a traditional school.

I asked Steve Lohr — a Times reporter who covers technology, the economy and work — to explain why Pursuit found itself in a jam.

First, how does Pursuit work? Its fellows, as it calls its students, promise to give back a sizable chunk of their future earnings, don’t they?

Yes. Pursuit, a nonprofit in Queens, trains low-income workers to be software engineers. It involves one year in the training program — though people can take longer if they need to — followed by three years of mentorship after a person gets a job.

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