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Video Spotlight: Onramp

February 24, 2022

Education Innovation Ventures is proud to have invested in Onramp, a workforce solutions company that offers custom-built apprenticeship, internship and returnship programs for corporate partners looking to expand their recruitment pipelines with high-potential candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. The company addresses a twofold issue: unfilled tech jobs and a lack of diversity in hiring.

Though technical roles are booming, their creation outpaces new computer science graduates ten to one every year, leaving more than 150,000 positions unfilled. This is in part due to traditional recruiting strategies, which strongly prioritize alumni of elite universities and hire talent from rivals rather than grow the overall industry pipeline. They also tend to perpetuate hiring workers that are overwhelmingly white, male, or both.

Women are disproportionately underrepresented, comprising only about a quarter of the American computing workforce in 2017, nearly all of them white. At the time, Asian women made up only 5 percent of the industry’s workers, Black women 3 percent and Latinx women just 1 percent. Even when women are qualified for tech positions, they often face rampant biases or an unappealing culture at companies where they apply, even as the industry spends collectively billions annually to remedy the situation.

The problem appears to start years earlier. We see a precipitous drop-off of women in computer science between Advanced Placement high school students and college graduates. Upskilling programs are often more accessible to women and people of color, but they can’t overcome entrenched hiring biases that favor certain degrees or backgrounds. Meanwhile, skills and employment gaps grow and positions are left unfilled. What many companies really need is an updated apprenticeship program that offers strong candidates, especially those from underrepresented communities, a way to get their foot in the door and on a path to a great job that an employer is eager to fill.

That’s where Onramp comes in.

CEO and cofounder Lateesha Thomas says the company aims to rectify these biases and create equitable opportunities by enabling the on-ramping of underrepresented talent. The team works with client companies to find, hire and retain qualified, diverse candidates through a proprietary apprenticeship model that incorporates on-the-job education and training.

“We're trying to teach companies a new way. We create a training for these candidates that closely matches what somebody needs to be able to do on day one to be successful in a role. It's a specific training for that company, for that job,” says Thomas.  

This makes a big difference for clients. “Before we had an official apprenticeship program, I would push candidates forward for internships and new grad roles, but what we were seeing is they would get stuck,” Emerging Talent Manager at Blend Jenna Thomas explains. “We realized we wanted to partner with somebody like Onramp who was going to look at our processes, really help us figure out what we could be doing with this great talent that is coming across our desk already.”

Program alum Momo Khan recalls, “It was definitely way harder to get any kind of job before I started working with Onramp.” He says many of the entry-level positions he viewed often required both a college degree and real-life experience, with ineligible candidates getting filtered out automatically.

Where a company might have previously discarded resumes from career changers or self-taught specialists, Onramp helps them truly consider and appropriately process the right candidates, whatever their backgrounds. Khan emphasizes, “It was very clear during the interview process that Onramp was looking for a certain type of person and not a certain skillset, because they believe if a certain person can really learn, they'll succeed in this apprenticeship—so we should give him that opportunity.”

Custom-built apprenticeships set newcomers up for success and guide client companies to hire more equitably, proving that the best talent doesn’t always come from traditional sources. Trainees get hands-on industry experience that gives them a boost into the tech world, solidifying their credentials for future hiring. Employers get candidates for full-time roles who are already well-integrated into the company’s processes and particulars. Khan, for instance, was placed at Pandora Radio, where he says he quickly felt like part of the team well before he was hired.

Current and past clients have included Twitch, Google, Pandora + SiriusXM, Mailchimp and Coinbase. As Jenna Thomas notes, “The Onramp team has been incredible. [They’re] a really great partner along the way, who really care about the work that they're doing.” Plus, Onramp’s services ensure anyone in the tech industry, even small or startup companies with limited in-house resources, can align their diversity values with their hiring practices.

According to Onramp, 92 percent of their apprentices — 75 percent of whom are people of color and 67 percent of whom are women — convert to full-time employees, tripling their pay and diversifying their employers’ workforces.

Now a full-time engineer at Pandora, Khan sits proudly among those ranks. “With software engineering, if you have a diverse workforce, it's no longer a sound chamber when the organization is making any sort of decision. You're going to bring in a ton of different perspectives.”

And that’s exactly how Onramp is changing the tech industry from the ground up.

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