The staff at AboutWeb sat down for a chat with Robert Epstein, the Chairman of AboutWeb, and the creator of AboutWeb Cares for a personal interview. Here are some of the excerpts:
Why did you start AboutWeb Cares?
Having worked in the Technology and Consulting field primarily in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area for over 30 years, I became increasing concerned with many people in economically challenged areas being left out of the ongoing technology boom. I also noticed that many H1B Visas were being issued to people who were not American citizens or green card holders for jobs that could definitely be filled by our local American workers with a little bit of training. I have nothing particularly against the H-1B program to bring in specific talent for particular needs but I felt that companies were abusing the H-1B program as an overseas labor vehicle that reduced opportunities for American workers and I wanted to do something about it.
You mentioned the technology and the fact that many people in economically challenged areas being left out of the ongoing technology boom. Tell us a little more about that.
Only part of our working society has been thriving in the current, ongoing technology revolution. Some are enjoying new technology innovation, high paying jobs, excellent careers, enhanced skills, on the job training, advancement, and mobility in the workplace. In addition, the increase in telecommuting and mobile technology, has helped to improve people's overall quality of life. It allows more flexible time to spend with family, and reduced commute times by avoiding traveling during rush hour. People can have more choices regarding where to live, particularly when they seek to choose areas that have better schools for their children. Flexibility in the workplace also offers employees and emerging entrepreneurs the chance to spend more recreation and vacation time with family and friends. Children benefit from more time with their families and stronger educational opportunities. I want to see more of our local citizen's benefit from the technology revolution in the workplace.
What about the Individuals left behind in the Tech Boom?
Today, many people are stuck in dead end jobs at low pay with no chance for advancement. They work hard for years in industries or businesses that have closed down. Some workers were laid off and lack of current skills, knowledge and training that prevents them from being hired and enjoying the fruits of this new booming technology economy. In addition, there are the hard working folks that just can not make it on what they earn now and need a little more money each month to get by and cover their bills. They are looking for a part-time or second job just to make ends meet.
Also, adults and children who depend on welfare for food and shelter often see now way out of their situation. Children who live in a cycle of poverty lasting generations have a higher chance of getting introduced to drugs and violence at an early age; see and experience domestic abuse; and experience jail time or drug addiction. Unfortunately, many capable people never get a second chance because of past mistakes. Where does that leave them? How can they improve their lives and get out of poverty? Humans are not perfect, people make mistakes and I believe in second chances. It is never too late to turn your life around.
What are you seeing in Human Potential that other companies are not seeing?
The tech field is booming and has been for over 30 years with no end in sight. With every new technology innovation there are thousands of new jobs and skills needed to deal with these innovations. Take the IPhone for example. I'll bet 10 years ago most people didn't even know what an "app" was. Now millions of people are involved in creating, building and supporting apps, while making good salaries and being involved in cutting edge technology. Since we are such a wired or "wireless" society these days, there are tremendous opportunities to do good things and bring the world closer. However, it also opens us up to those who seek to use technology against us such as those hacking into sensitive records. This has created an entire new class of jobs involved with building secure web and mobile applications for commercial enterprises like banks, credit cards companies, as well as our protecting our country by working with Federal, State and Local governments. The need for technology jobs specifically cybersecurity professionals will continue to grow exponentially in the coming decade. By 2020 there will be nearly one and a half million open jobs in the tech sector, tech skills are 20 of the top 25 most sought after skills by employers on Linkedin, and all 10 of the fastest growing keywords in job listings on Indeed are tech related. However, the problem is there are not enough qualified people to fill all these jobs. There lies the opportunity. Many economically challenged individuals actually live right next to these thriving technology companies or in close proximity. Instead of reaching out to train and develop workers right in their backyard and create jobs for American citizens, these companies have looked outside of the USA for their talent. Now, I have nothing against bringing in international talent with specialized skills for certain functions, but this has become the norm NOT the exception. As a result these overseas employees receive the huge benefit of continuous "On The Job" training and learning, while leaving our unskilled workers further and further behind. I think this is not only wrong but shortsighted by these companies. If companies just took the time to train people right in their local areas, this would ultimately empower these individuals to be qualified for these high paying high demand jobs, reduce the need for welfare and change the course of their lives for the better!
Empowering economically disadvantaged individuals or entry level students to be qualified for these high paying high demand technology jobs is a fantastic goal but how do you get there?
One question that I have constantly heard over the years with the economic disadvantaged population, as well as students is, how do I get the experience I need to be qualified to get my foot in the door that will lead me to a high paying technology job? If someone is living paycheck to paycheck and still not able to pay all their bills it is hard to figure out how to make a change. For example, they may have a steady minimum wage job but their income potential is limited. Do they risk leaving that steady job to go back to school, which is very expensive or not feasible if they have a family to feed? Alternatively, do they risk applying for a technology job when they have no skilled training or experience in that area? Or, what about the people taking second jobs to help them get by, but they are not able to spend time with their families? Many feel there is no escape from their situation.
I felt it was time to take some action and created AboutWeb Cares. The goal is to empower people in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods by retraining and retooling their skills along with on the job experience to help them find good jobs with advancement. American companies will benefit from hiring local talent and allow them continue to create high paying American jobs while individuals will be given the opportunity to reduce and break their cycle of generational poverty,provide for self dignity, and get a second chance at a better life. Our motto is: Building Skills, Empowering People, One Job at a Time.
What motivated you to do this program?
I am a "Can Do" guy who likes to "Make It Happen". When I saw this problem, I was determined to come up with a solution. I was taught from a very early age to work hard, get a good education, strive for success and make a difference in the world. I plan to continue to emphasize this philosophy with all employees at AboutWeb.
AboutWeb Cares sounds like a fantastic program. Is there a cost to be in this "On the Job" Training Program?
NO, There is no cost to enter the program and in fact we pay everyone as employees of AboutWeb while they are in the program. You are hired as an AboutWeb hourly employee and we typically require 10 hours a week of commitment to our organization.
Should someone quit his or her day job to do this AboutWeb Cares program?
I recommend that you don't leave your other steady job...yet! Don't take that risk. AboutWeb Cares offers part-time work for 10hrs a week with a flexible schedule. This allows you to keep your current job while learning new skills. Once your expereince gets strong enough, you can then market your new skills and apply for new full time opportunities, including full time jobs with AboutWeb!. Either way, you get paid while you learn, gain the skills you need to increase your income, and get exposure to Amercia's technology world.
How is this program funded?
It is completely self-funded by AboutWeb. With each success, I always tried to take a portion of our profits to fund a worthy cause to give back to society and make the world a better place. The program accomplishes those goals.
What are your growth plans for this program?
I am hoping to open other offices in economically disadvantaged areas to make even more of an impact plus inspire other companies to do their civic duty and hire and train from their local populations especially in economically disadvantaged areas vs hiring from overseas. Since I am a lifelong Marylander going back four generations and know of the tough times Baltimore City has been having the past few years, I plan to make an immedaite impact by centralizing our AboutWeb Cares operation there in the Spring of 2017.
Do you have any success stories to share?
Our website has many testimonials of people that have been really happy with the program. Feel free to go here to read them for yourself!
Who is qualified and how does someone apply?
Our core mission is to target economically challenged areas so that is where we hire from. We use government targeted HubZone Maps http://map.sba.gov/hubzone/maps/ to determine if an individual is qualified. The person must live in a qualified area census track from this map to be eligible. You can click on the following link to verify you reside within a qualified census track:
Other requirements include:
Able to work 10 hours per week, with a total of 40 hours per month
Provide current proof of residency (for example: Driver's License,Voter Registration card, or Lease with further documentation)
Authorized to work in the United States
Pass a criminal background check
- Potential to work remotely based on location
- Must have access to personal computer or access to computer
If interested they can submit their resume to our Human Resource Department at email@example.com. They should include their complete contact information, full home address, and areas of interest and expertise.