Amenta Christian-Robertson has always loved science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She was a star student in the biotechnology career pathway at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy on Grand in the heart of St. Louis city.
“I was in the St. Louis Internship Program since my sophomore year of high school. So, I had that core of how to carry myself and do interviews. I had an engineering internship with Emerson. I graduated as valedictorian in 2011,” she recalls with a smile.
Eager to follow her passion for the sciences, Amenta went to the University of Missouri-Columbia for a dual degree in chemical engineering and computer science. After completing two years of college, she came back home.
“I was career and college ready and prepared for the best, but only to a certain extent,” Amenta explained.
“Columbia, Missouri and the rigorous curriculum of chemical engineering [at Mizzou] were a little overwhelming. No one wanted to hire me in Columbia.”
Amenta took a break from education. To pay off some of her student loans from Mizzou, she began tutoring students and gigging as DJ Menti-Fresh at parties and events. In 2015, she started driving for Postmates, an American q-commerce company owned by Uber. It is known for quickly delivering small quantities of restaurant-prepared meals and other goods. Although Amenta made about $150 per day a few days a week, the income was often inconsistent and below full-time pay at minimum wage.
One spring day in 2017, while in a significant stall of no work or education activities, Amenta received an email from her mom about NPower, a robust national nonprofit organization providing free technology training to underserved communities, coming to St. Louis and recruiting trainees. In March of 2017, World Wide Technology (WWT), a Regional Business Council member and STL.works Collaborating Partner, was instrumental in bringing NPower to the campuses of Harris-Stowe State University and later to St. Louis Community College for accessible training in cloud computing, cybersecurity, coding, and more, as an alternative fast-track to tech jobs with the Fortune 500 companies committed to diversity.
The St. Louis Regional Business Council (RBC), comprised of over a hundred corporations like AT&T and WWT, was also very committed to this cause.
“There are thousands of tech jobs in St. Louis that require technology skills, but not necessarily a four-year degree,” explained RBC President and CEO, Kathy Osborn. “The RBC is pleased to be a funder of NPower because they find the young people who have potential, yet need the resources, opportunity, and training to have successful employment.”
“I procrastinated for a week or two and waited until three or four days before the deadline to complete the application. I got in and excelled. Math, science, and technology are me,” said Amenta.
In three months, she completed the course, was the commencement speaker for the 2nd cohort of graduates, and started an NPower paid internship earning $17 per hour at Zero Day Technology Solutions, a turnkey IT solutions organization with a focus on network architecture efficiency as a proud member of the Keeley Companies.
By 2019, having mastered many technical skills from the NPower course and two years of technology work experience, she earned the Comp Tia A+ Certification, one of the many industry-recognized credentials (IRC) for a gateway technology position with excellent wages. NPower later created an alumni advanced training program in security. Amenta took the initiative to work full-time during the day and attend classes at night from 6 pm - 8:30 pm for 12 weeks to earn her second IRC, Security+.
With her experience and this second certification, Amenta gained the confidence and creditability to seek a position with a Fortune 500 company with higher earning potential. “I applied to a few positions on my own outside of the NPower program, and I did not get many calls back. But when NPower directly sent over my resume to WWT in December 2020, I got an interview the next day and was hired that same day. So, I can definitely say that NPower will help get your foot in the door and provide you with opportunities that would be a lot harder for you to get for yourself,” Amenta added. Today, she has seven months of gainful employment at WWT, one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For® in 2021 for the 10th consecutive year by the Great Place to Work® and Fortune.
Amenta is paying off old college tuition debts, finishing a third IRC in networking, and earning a wage above the starting salaries of many people with four-year degrees. She has the earning potential to well surpass $80,000 in cybersecurity. This is the power of NPower.
Wendell Covington, NPower Missouri regional executive director, shared that 60 NPower students graduated in the last 2021 cohort during the COVID-19 pandemic with at least two cohorts per year.
“We’ve had nearly 600 trainees since 2017. We are trending toward 150 trainees this year. We have a 76% IRC certification rate, 90% 2021 retention rate and a 74% Spring 2021 job placement rate. WWT, AT&T, MasterCard, Accenture are some of our major partners hiring NPower graduates with stackable credentials in tech fundamentals, cloud computing, software development, and cybersecurity,” Covington outlined.
NPower is actively recruiting for the next cohort of trainees. “This is an opportunity to build bridges and change lives. We have an aggressive goal to reach 1000 graduates by 2024,” Covington said. “So, we need more corporate partners. We want more participants.” NPower is a proud STL.works Collaborating Partner, helping to increase our skilled workforce in technology.
“The best advice I can give is to get started. Get started. You have to make movement to see movement,” implored Amenta. “If you are going to say it, then do it. Don’t just speak on it, actually move on it. Get something started and get something in the works.”