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FIU partners with SV Academy to diversify Silicon Valley, provide jobs

by Monica Smith

Jan 23, 2020, 9:00 AM.

Free 12-week fellowship program linked to actor Ashton Kutcher provides job placement for students with a median salary of $79,000.

The more diverse a workforce is, the better its solutions and innovations are. Florida International University, ranked No. 1 for graduating the most Hispanic students in the nation, knows this well as it serves one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation. The university also shapes talent for many of the world’s biggest organizations. For these reasons, SV Academy, a tuition-free online vocational program for tech sales, sought a partnership with FIU.

Co-founded by CEO Rahim Fazal, whose last company, Involver, was acquired by Oracle, and COO Joel Scott, the former VP of operations at Hewlett Packard, SV Academy offers FIU students a stepping-stone to tech careers through its Collegiate Program.

Hollywood ties

Actor Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary, co-founders of the venture capital firm Sound Ventures, who invested in Uber and Airbnb when they were in the “seed” stage as startups, are investors for SV Academy. 

“We’re excited to partner with SV Academy, a team that’s democratizing access to life-changing careers and economic opportunity with a truly unique approach — this is education that’s hands-on and tuition-free, with a job on the other side,” said Kutcher in a statement.

FIU Online creates opportunity

Forged through FIU Online, the partnership between FIU and SV Academy works as a natural fit for the university’s online student community because SV Academy’s program is 100% online. The SV Academy Collegiate Program currently partners with just FIU and Arizona State University. 

“SV Academy shares our zeal for providing accessibility to life-changing education and gives graduates the tangible skills and mentorship that make them immediately hirable and valuable members of the tech community,” said Joseph Riquelme, Assistant Vice President, FIU Online, FIU. “This partnership marks a significant milestone for FIU and opens up doors to careers in tech for our alumni everywhere.”

A solution for several issues

SV Academy’s 12-week fellowship program has several big-picture goals. One is to diversify Silicon Valley. Another is to close the employment gap in an industry that needs to fill critical tech sales roles. Third, the program is designed to help underrepresented students find a pathway to lucrative careers in the high-growth tech sales industry.

Since 2017, SV Academy has led 28 cohorts and transitioned hundreds of fellows into high-paying, high-growth sales careers. According to SV Academy, on average, graduates of the program secure a career in 39 days, whereas it takes the average college graduate three to six months to secure employment after graduation.

Open to all FIU students

All seniors at FIU, whether online or on campus, can apply for acceptance into the free fellowship program. Also, no coding experience is needed. Students in the program receive instruction from industry giants such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn and are placed in a full-time job in the tech industry at the end of the program.

The positions feature a median starting salary of approximately $79,000 at companies like SurveyMonkey, Palo Alto Networks, Pure Storage and Cloudflare, stated the co-founders of SV Academy. Graduates of the fellowship program also receive on-the-job mentoring to help during the first year.

Increasing FIU grads’ marketability

“Sales skills have staying power, and we’re honored to work with ASU and FIU, two leading universities focused on diversity and increasing access to education through online learning,” said Fazal. “Both universities believe in our unique approach to helping underrepresented talent transition into the tech industry and stand behind our value-add, and we’re excited to expand our reach to even more hardworking graduates across the country.”

The program is another way FIU is creating added value for the university’s students in terms of credentialing and helping them join the workforce faster, said Riquelme. It also helps build relationships within the corporate sector and positions the university as a solutions center. Students are trained with needed skills that make them more marketable, he asserted.

For more information on the program, visit

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