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Yes, there have been tech layoffs, but the number of job openings remains high

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This may sound surprising, but there are still a lot of tech job openings in the U.S. We're talking hundreds of thousands of jobs, even as Silicon Valley has been rocked by mass layoffs. To help meet the demand, one program is racing to get more workers into the tech pipeline. NPR's Andrea Hsu reports.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: In the break room of the tech training school Per Scholas, Michael Gomez has something to celebrate.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: No one rung it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL RINGING)

HSU: He is the latest in his cohort to get his A+ certification. That's a widely recognized credential issued by the trade association CompTIA for IT support and other entry-level tech jobs. Gomez is 44. He's worked in retail as a personal shopper and stylist, but now he's looking to advance in the world, and he says tech is where it is. Plus, he's looking forward to the stability.

MICHAEL GOMEZ: With my A+ certification, I can now land a job and not have to necessarily worry about next gig, next client. It's, like, my next shift is tomorrow, and I know I'll be getting paid.

HSU: Gomez remains undeterred by the layoff announcements from places like Amazon, Google and Meta.

GOMEZ: A lot of those layoffs are coming from the big companies - sort of, like, bigger fish. So me getting my A+ today - I'm a small fish, so...

(LAUGHTER)

GOMEZ: ...I don't feel like I have those problems to necessarily worry about because there's a lot of startup companies. There's a lot of people doing things every day.

HSU: And that is reflected in the numbers.

PLINIO AYALA: Over 315,000 tech jobs are open right now in this country.

HSU: Plinio Ayala is CEO of Per Scholas, a Latin phrase that means for scholars. The nonprofit has 20 campuses around the country, including just outside Washington, D.C.

AYALA: There are more openings now than the talent we're producing as a nation.

HSU: This school is trying to help fill the void, recruiting students from communities that are underrepresented in tech and students without a college education. Ayala points out, with so much of our world online, companies across sectors need tech workers.

AYALA: The truth is that every company is a tech company.

HSU: In fact, it's estimated that just over half of tech workers are now working outside the traditional tech sector. Students here have taken on jobs in cybersecurity, Java development and IT support - your basic help desk job.

KEIONNA YARBOROUGH: Now, let's go see who is the printer technician.

HSU: I peek in on a class taught by Keionna Yarborough, a Per Scholas graduate herself. The lesson is all about troubleshooting laser printers.

YARBOROUGH: All right. So you see here this printer can copy, scan, fax, talk on the phone - just kidding...

(LAUGHTER)

YARBOROUGH: ...Right?

HSU: Students pay nothing for the 15-week, boot camp-style courses here. Funding comes from grants and from corporations who work with Per Scholas to develop customized trainings. And while workforce training programs can be a mixed bag, this one appears highly effective at placing students. More than 80% of graduates find full-time work within a year, Ayala says, at a whole range of companies.

AYALA: Deloitte and Touche, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, TEKsystems.

HSU: Johntel Brandy, who's 38, is actually hoping to stay with her current employer, American Airlines. She's been a gate agent for seven years. As soon as she graduates, she plans to apply for an IT support job there, which would come with better pay.

JOHNTEL BRANDY: Way better pay.

(LAUGHTER)

BRANDY: It's way better pay. It's basically three times more than what I'm making right now.

HSU: Plinio Ayala says that's typical of Per Scholas graduates. Elizabeth Mabrey, who's 23, has been working at a CVS and before that at a Barnes & Noble.

ELIZABETH MABREY: When you think about most retail jobs, a lot of times they pay you based off of high school level education. That's generally where they start.

HSU: Now, Mabrey's passion is art. She's been taking some art courses at a community college, but she knows that many creative jobs, like in graphic design, are threatened by AI.

MABREY: I want to make sure I have security, and IT's definitely a secure place to go into.

HSU: As the students here finish up their coursework and sharpen their resumes, the mass layoff announcements coming from Silicon Valley remain far from the mind.

GOMEZ: Even every day seeing layoff, layoff, layoff...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah.

GOMEZ: ...I've been studying, studying, studying.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah (laughter).

HSU: Michael Gomez and his friends are set to graduate on May 12. Andrea Hsu, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.