Entrepreneur Chris Morancie is determined to break the cycle of poverty and lack of tech education by equipping today’s youth with computer skills. He wants to accomplish this through a tech academy he plans to introduce in St. Petersburg and beyond.
Morancie recently opened a 5,000-square-foot learning lab in the University Mall in Tampa, also known as Rithm at Uptown. The LT3 Academy is a tech training accelerator that aims to create a pathway for students interested in learning about the business of coding, programming and engineering.
“We want to run our labs in underserved communities surrounded by schools where we can recruit students from,” said Morancie, the CEO and co-founder. “This is an alternative way for people to be trained without having debt. This is free for them, and they can earn money while learning.”
The LT3 Group, which stands for Learning Tomorrow’s Technology Today, has two arms – its labs, the physical space, and the academy that embodies the training programs.
LT3 Academy houses Florida Department of Education-approved pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs in tech occupations such as software development and cybersecurity.
One program is the Path accelerator, which is an eight-week, in-person program that teaches the fundamentals of tech to youth in high school.
The second level, called Onward, is a fully remote tech talent accelerator where participants can get paid $15 an hour for 21 hours a week.
“In Onward, people get real-job experience while training, this is a tech boot camp on steroids,” he said.
The final level, called Upward, follows the Onward program and places participants in an entrepreneurship program to connect with tech companies seeking full-time talent.
Morancie said its first class of 10 students graduated from the Path programming this month, and LT3 is getting ready to onboard a new class of 20 students.
“We are closing on a deal with a key strategic partner to allow us to run this program year-round and work directly with high schools. In the new model, we would be able to train high school students remotely throughout the week and on Saturdays, they could come in for live work sessions.
“We would finally be able to the problem of the lack of computer science education in our high schools. When we do this and show the success, we hope we will get the funding to grow this to other clusters.”
LT3 Academy will first pilot the program in five high schools around Uptown, the area surrounding the mall and the University of South Florida.
“We plan on taking this model and delivering it across the state. The next stop is Pinellas County, but we ran into a roadblock and are now re-evaluating those plans,” he said. “We would still like to open a lab in Pinellas in the first quarter of next year and are also looking at opening a site in Pasco County next year too.”
An ideal location for the academy/tech lab would be Tyrone Square Mall. “I would love to have this academy in the mall. It fits into the similar vision we had in Tampa that can change the course of people’s lives,” Morancie explained.
Morancie also said the floor is open for large local employers to reach out and work with the LT3 Group, which is currently working with small and mid-size companies.
Breaking the cycle first-hand
Morancie’s passion for tech education derives from his struggles.
“My dad dropped out of school when he was 10 years old, and he was the oldest of 12 children. He became a bagger at a grocery store and my grandma knew if he continued this, our family was going to remain poor and so she paid for an apprenticeship program for him, and our family rose from the ashes,” Morancie said.
Afterward, his father opened his own business and supported his family. Some family members went on to secure careers in tech, banking and continuing the family business.
“When we talk about building resiliency, the only way to accomplish that is by workforce development in high-wage careers,” he said. “This is very personal for me, I know all it can take is one person jumping into our program, staying the full way through it, and it could change their entire destiny of their family and themselves. We need to invest in youth before they give up on society, and say, ‘you can do this.'”