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Grantee Video Spotlight: Just-A-Start Corporation

April 24, 2020

Massachusetts is the most highly-educated state in the country, with more than half of the workforce holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. While having an educated populace is seemingly positive, it makes upward mobility very difficult for residents who are unable to afford the high, and rising, costs of postsecondary education.

Just-A-Start Corporation, or JAS, is a Cambridge-based community development corporation helping foster housing and economic stability for low-income residents in Cambridge and the surrounding areas.

In 2018, ECMC Foundation granted JAS $501,053 to pilot a new IT Careers Program for low-income individuals and support the first four cohorts of students. The pilot program was launched after the conclusion of a one-year $59,928 planning grant made by ECMC Foundation in 2016. 

The IT Careers Program is a partnership between JAS and Bunker Hill Community College based on the success of their biomedical program which has employed a similar model for more than 25 years. Students participate in paid internships, attend classes where they learn technical and soft skills, and receive wraparound supports and career counseling. Upon completion, participants earn college credit towards the school’s PC Hardware Specialist Certificate Program and obtain stackable, industry-recognized credentials like CompTIA A+ to prepare them for Computer User Support Specialist positions in a business environment.

The program is overseen by an advisory board of 10 IT industry professionals and is a valuable hiring source for the tech industry in Massachusetts. The program serves a student body that is 80% people of color or immigrants, compared to only 24% of the IT industry as a whole, and has a 90% overall graduation rate. JAS helps connect graduates with companies looking for new talent, and graduates who complete the program earn an average income of $19 an hour, compared to a pre-program average of $13.66 an hour.  

Funding from ECMC Foundation enabled Just-A-Start to take a risk on launching the new program and make minor adjustments along the way resulting in an improved recruitment process, employer engagement strategy, and program model. Looking forward, JAS will continue to grow and refine the IT Careers Program and expand employer engagement through outreach, job fairs, and local partnerships.

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