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A blog from Creating IT Futures

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October 18, 2016

Twin Cities Businesses Gather IT Workforce Insights

AtomicDataPolarisAwardCreating IT Futures Foundations works with more than 60 businesses in the Twin Cities to hire its IT-Ready graduates, and earlier this month, more than half of those businesses joined Creating IT Futures for a breakfast to discuss how to increase and improve the tech workforce.

Over the past year, Creating IT Futures also created a Business Advisory Council to help guide the foundation staff in training graduates for specific Minnesotan business needs. Becky Ryan from HealthPartners is the chair, and Ken Rothenberger from Code42 is the vice-chair. A number of new employment partners joined the IT-Ready program this year: A Couple of Guru’s,, Best Buy, Bill’s Gun Shop, Corporate Technologies, Fairview Health, Hennepin County, Imagine IT, Lifetouch Studios, Maximum Solutions, Thomson Reuters, TSI and US Bank.

During the breakfast, Sue Wallace, executive director, Minnesota, Creating IT Futures, said, “Thank you for your service and helping us to create new on-ramps for more people to prepare for, secure and succeed in IT careers.”

Creating IT Futures’ parent company, CompTIA, also is active in prepping the workforce for one of the biggest IT challenges, cybersecurity. During the breakfast, employers heard from a CompTIA expert talk about cybersecurity trends for IT pros and employers. CompTIA’s Patrick Lane is a technology and education expert focused on setting standards for international IT workforce skills.

Lane explained what skills businesses need to protect their networks from cyberattacks, how to train their end-users so they don’t launch malware on their networks and how to keep those skills current.

Lane called the Target attack of 2014 the “wake-up call” in the IT security world. “With 40 million credit card users vulnerable, the attack demonstrated that traditional security tools such as firewalls and anti-virus software are not enough to protect networks,” said Lane.

Target needed an “access control system” so that only authorized users could get into certain areas of the network. Then Target could have focused on behavior and applied behavior analytics to the IT security environment to stop the attack. They would have been able to identify network anomalies to find bad behavior.

Lane pointed out that the industry now needs to train IT professionals to have security analyst skills which cover:
  1. Threat management,
  2. Vulnerability management,
  3. Cyber incident response, and
  4. Security and architecture tool sets.
Security analyst jobs openings have doubled since 2014, and CompTIA is launching a new certification in February 2017 to cover those skills sets. The new credential will be called CompTIA CSA+ (CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst).

After Lane provided valuable insight on the workforce skills needed for cybersecurity, John Amakye, an IT-Ready graduate now employed by the City of Minneapolis as a service desk agent, talked about how his training directly related to his job and how the City helped him make the transition into a full-time IT career. “IT skills give us the ability to be relevant in any field,” said Amayke. Before IT-Ready, Amayke was in banking but didn’t see how we could grow in that industry. What he liked best about banking, was the customer interaction and helping his customers succeed. IT-Ready gave him the opportunity to make a change in his career.

“IT-Ready looks at aptitude. It sounded too good to be true, but the catch is what you bring to it,” said Amayke. “Are you ready to work and use the opportunity given to you?”

“The City of Minneapolis has been a great supporter of IT-Ready and it’s because of great graduates like John, who keep proving to employers that our program works,” said Wallace.

Another strong employer of IT-Ready is Atomic Data, and this year, Creating IT Futures honored them with the Polaris Award, recognizing their leadership in building IT careers for those in need of career opportunities. Atomic Data became one of Creating IT Futures’ employment partners in 2013 and has employed nine IT-Ready graduates since then. During the breakfast, attendees saw a video presentation on Atomic Data’s work with IT-Ready.

Accepting on behalf of Atomic Data, Chris Becker, manager of recruiting and HR, said, “We’ve built a great relationship with Creating IT Futures and it’s been a fun and rewarding experience. IT-Ready is the perfect combination of tech skills and soft skills training. Ezell Jones was one of the first IT-Ready graduates we hired and was a great fit. One of our more recent IT-Ready hires, Tucker Landis, has been with us 10 months and started by working our 3rd shift, the overnight, and is now a team lead.”

“Atomic Data has been a valued partner for our IT-Ready program – from meeting with students in preparing them for the workplace to hiring graduates to participating on our business advisory council. We’re thrilled to present our 2016 Polaris Award to Atomic Data,” praised Wallace.