WOS is designed around a researched solution to address the effects that poverty, social isolation and stress have on inner–city adults. This population often lacks the resources and cultural skills to persevere and succeed in mainstream labor settings, and especially in more complex fields such as information and communication technologies.

This research was conducted by WOS founder Dr. Arthur Langer, a Columbia faculty member involved with the Center of Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Langer’s research has identified low–income adult IT learner’s training and employment trajectories are fraught with financial, social and psychological obstacles that precipitate classroom absenteeism, low morale, frustration in new job settings and, ultimately, career failure. WOS works to help students surpass these deterrents, using reflection–with–action teaching methods that encourage them to record their learning experiences in journal form and to discuss their concerns with personal mentors.

These methods enable learners to think retrospectively about their past experiences and responses, as well as about what to do in the future. The charting of their sentiments, experiences and understandings on a developmental model that assesses progress through stages of cognitive, intellectual, and psychological growth in the learning process allows WOS to closely monitor trainee’s successes and needs.

WOS operates on the premise that guiding trainees during their first employment experiences in the private sector best prepares them for job competition and mobility upon leaving training. This model has been proven through several successful implementations that began with the first program, which brought trainees through the course of study at Columbia University, in partnership with the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 2003–04. Following adjustments in the design, many more successful programs have resulted in almost 100 participants completing their training and becoming employed as consultants for WOS.