Inspiring Success

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June 25, 2015

Philly Graduates its First IT-Ready Class

philly female students Blog (Left to right) Tawanda Sydnor (Syd), Kathy Wilkins and Venessa
Collucci get hands-on during their IT-Ready class in Philly.
Last year, market research firm Burning Glass reported that nearly 49,000 open IT jobs were posted in Philadelphia. Moreover, tech jobs in Pennsylvania have average salaries of $90,700 – 86 percent higher than other private sector jobs, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates report.

With great salaries abounding, why does Philly still have so many IT job openings? The answer is simple: a lack of qualified applicants.

To tackle this challenge, four months ago Creating IT Futures Foundation partnered with Philadelphia Works to bring the foundation’s IT-Ready employment program to the city. Approximately 450 people applied to be students of the program, and from that pool, the foundation selected 21 people for training who passed the program’s assessment tests. Their training started in May, and for the next eight weeks, they worked hard and kept their dedication and desire.

Student Kathy Wilkins said, “I walked away from everything I knew to do this. I’m embarking on a new journey that’s just for me. I never thought I would be able to do something like this for myself.”

Student Corey Ferguson summed up the class’ dedication with: “I took it all the way. I didn’t slack off. I kept studying. I knew what I needed to do and it won out over what I may have wanted to do. I accomplished what I set out to do.”

Today, 18 of those original 21 students graduated from the program. So far seven have passed both parts of their CompTIA A+ certification exams, and the rest are continuing to study and sit for their exams. Of the three that did not graduate, the program maintains a strict tardy and absentee rule, allowing only one absentee and two tardies throughout the eight weeks.

“Employers expect workers to show up every day on time, and we demand the same of our students in IT-Ready,” said Amy Spear, director, special projects, Creating IT Futures.

Carlos Rivera, one of the Philly students, commented, “This program was the most serious thing I ever did in my life. From where I grew up, I never saw myself as a winner. Now I can say I got my CompTIA A+ and I’m going somewhere.”

“I never realized I was so driven to work on something that I was so passionate about,” said Brian Markus, another student. “I never would have pushed myself as hard before this program, but I found that IT was something I would absolutely do for the rest of my life.”

The students’ training included collaboration in groups to learn from each other and their instructors. IT jobs typically involve teamwork and collaboration to solve customer problems and find technology solutions.

“I’ve never been great at teamwork. I’ve always been a lone wolf, but I learned how to be a team player and find ways to collaborate,” said student Kalif Celestine.

Student Ruby Rodriguez added, “We became a tight-knit group. We needed to work together to make things happen.”

During the final week, IT staffing firm TEKsystems interviewed the students for potential open jobs. IT-Ready continues to work with the students to help them make employer connections and get placed into jobs. Employers interested in hiring the students can contact Amy Spear at aspear@comptia.org.

IT-Ready applicants are pre-screened and vetted with the Workplace Personality Inventory assessment as well as literacy and math tests. IT-Ready training covers both technical and softer professional skills. Employers don't pay for screenings, training or certifications and there are no hiring fees or commissions to be paid.

Student Malcomb O’Dean classified himself as an overqualified and older worker who was struggling to get a job before he signed up for IT-Ready. He saw the program as a “golden opportunity since it’s not just training but about gaining placement.”

Creating IT Futures established the IT-Ready Network earlier this month to expand the program nationwide.  The foundation would like to repeat the program in Philly and bring it to other markets once more funds can be raised. It costs $5000 for each student enrolled in IT-Ready. Corporations and grant-giving organizations who would like to bring IT-Ready to their city can contact Colleen Attwell at cattwell@comptia.org on how to get started.

“With IT-Ready, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said student Derrick Copeland. “IT is a career, not just a job. You can’t beat that.”

“IT-Ready is a tried-and-true program,” added Markus. “You may not be confident that you can get through it, but the program will show you how to be successful. You see the dynamics of your classmates and how they can help you can overcome your weaknesses.”

“Before I signed up, the program seemed too good to be true, but it was too good to turn down,” added student David Watson “If you want to move from struggling every day to a career with unlimited potential, sign up with IT-Ready.”