Our Values In Action
Making Investments to Increase Tech Skills
As a teenager in Camden, N.J. — a struggling city that consistently ranks among the poorest in the nation — Naomi Maldonado could see the shimmering lights of the Comcast Center across the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she would one day work there.
“Where I came from, I don’t think anybody ever thought about working in a corporate office,” says Maldonado, now a Business Analyst with Comcast Cable’s Sales Operations group. “My friends and I thought about getting jobs in fast food or in warehouses.”
The 23-year-old credits her success to Hopeworks, an innovative nonprofit that teaches the technology skills that can be instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty. Digital proficiency is a must in today’s workforce, a requirement not just for tech-specific jobs but a critical skillset for virtually all sectors of employment. Employees everywhere are now required to engage with, understand, and master an ever-growing universe of digital tools.
That’s why Comcast NBCUniversal is investing in programs like Hopeworks that equip and support young people in developing the tech skills that open doors to opportunity. The Hopeworks program is no ordinary computer training class, however. The organization takes a holistic approach to empower students who come to them with often harrowing pasts, including family and street violence, homelessness, and trafficking.
Since 2010, we have supported Hopeworks with funding, along with a steady roster of employee volunteers and mentors, as part of our ongoing efforts to help bridge the digital and opportunity divide between those who have access to technology, as well as the skills to harness it, and those who do not.
Hopeworks’ Executive Director, Dan Rhoton, and his team know firsthand what it takes to help young people facing extremely difficult realities aspire to — and attain — better life opportunities.
“At Hopeworks, we work with young people who come from deeply challenging circumstances. We understand that they have endured pain that will likely never be erased, but our steadfast commitment is to stand by them and help them build a brighter future,” Rhoton says. “We help them discover their own resilience, nurture their skills, and strengthen their will to strive for more.”
Since its launch in 2000, Hopeworks has helped turn around the lives of more than 3,000 young people, with 86% of them landing tech-related jobs that pay upward of $32,000 a year — the minimum salary needed to lift an individual out of poverty, Rhoton says.
After completing the Hopeworks program, which included a nearly two-year period living in its residential facility, Maldonado worked for two other tech-related companies before securing her current job with Comcast in the summer of 2018.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” says Maldonado, who lives in a West Philadelphia apartment with her 2-year-old son, Kingston. “Hopeworks showed me that with hard work, you can get out of a difficult situation and you can get whatever you want — whether it’s your dream job or your dream apartment.” Or in Maldonado’s case, both.
Rhoton says his program benefits the young people he works with as well as the companies that may ultimately hire them.
“Large tech companies can’t fill all the jobs they have. Not only can they not find talented people for the jobs, but they can’t find the diversity of candidates that will give them advantages in the marketplace,” Rhoton explains. “At the same time, there are literally thousands of young people in Camden and Philadelphia who want opportunities to grow and work, who are ambitious and hardworking, and who want to take care of their families. Hopeworks bridges that divide between the two groups.”
Our financial support for Hopeworks is making a real difference in enabling the nonprofit to continue and expand its valuable work. But even more important, says Rhoton, are the Comcast NBCUniversal mentors and volunteers who spend time with the program’s youth. Our company frequently invites Hopeworks participants to our Comcast Center Campus for mock interviews and sends employees to Camden as part of Comcast Cares Day every year.
“When one of the largest media companies in the world notices young people in Camden who are trying to change their lives, it makes an impression,” he says. “When Comcast NBCUniversal welcomes them into their offices, it gives them access to a space they didn’t necessarily see themselves in. And above all, it signals to them that they are important, valued, and welcomed. That is a very powerful message.”
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