At 24, Caleb Foster was juggling a new marriage and two jobs. He was in a professional funk, not earning enough money to pay the bills or, at times, buy groceries.
“I knew I was capable of more,” Foster said. “I just didn’t know where to start.”
Then he learned about an organization whose programs connect students and young people to good-paying, in-demand tech jobs. Interested in cybersecurity, Foster enrolled in a paid, six-month apprenticeship program at Road to Hire (R2H).
It was the break he needed. Armed with a new set of skills, Foster became a cybersecurity apprentice at Duke Energy in 2021.
“I still can’t believe I’m here,” Foster said. “I didn’t think it was possible to work at a place like Duke Energy because I didn't go to college. But all I needed was an opportunity.”
He evaluates the risks of exceptions to Duke Energy cybersecurity policies, helps deploy a companywide cyber awareness training and shares information about how all workers can help the organization remain cyber safe.
“My job is more creative than I expected,” Foster said. “So, it’s been fun to learn new skills and stay open to new possibilities.”
With a focus on helping people of color and low-income students who are underrepresented in the technology sector, R2H helps increase the pipeline of tech talent in the Charlotte, N.C., area. It’s a mission the Duke Energy Foundation has supported with financial assistance.
Duke Energy, a corporate sponsor, also recruits from R2H. 17 information technology (IT) and cybersecurity apprentices currently work on Bonnie Titone's team.
“They do a great job of preparing their students to work in the industry and we carry the torch from there,” said Bonnie Titone, senior vice president and chief information officer at Duke Energy. “I also think we’ve done a good job of offering additional support to help them navigate a company of this size.”
It drives innovation, she said, when you have a room full of people with new ideas and a different way of thinking; that's why the department focuses on diverse recruiting.
“The wider we cast the net, the more likely we are to find the best candidate for the job," Titone said. "We also see a workforce that better reflects the customers and communities we serve."
Her ultimate measure of success? To see someone from R2H become a leader in the department.
“Caleb is not afraid to take on new challenges or offer a solution to a problem,” said Joseph Adams, Duke Energy director of cybersecurity strategy, governance and risk. “He also helped save the company money by creating a cybersecurity training course, which allowed us to discontinue paying for a third-party tool.”
After seeing her husband thrive in the program and now at Duke Energy, Foster’s wife, Isabelle, applied to R2H. She got a job at Bank of America, while Foster works toward an analyst role, the next step up from apprentice.
“A piece of advice I got early on," he said, “is that you might not be doing what you thought you’d do. But if you stay open, you never know where the next road will take you. So, that’s the mindset I try to keep.”
Foster hopes to one day manage others. It’s why he enrolled in college in 2023, an opportunity made possible through a Duke Energy program that reimburses eligible employees up to $5,250 annually for certain educational expenses.
“I never dreamed I’d work for a company that would help me get a college degree,” he said. “The sky is the limit.”
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