It’s a well-known, if unfortunate, fact that the IT industry is disproportionately male. In 2016, approximately 66 percent of the tech sector workforce was male, a percentage that remain unchanged from the year before, according to the recent Cyberstates report from CompTIA.
Creating IT Futures is working hard to encourage greater gender diversity within the tech industry by targeting key efforts toward women. The IT workforce charity has partnered with Tech Girlz to host workshops and camps that encourage more young women to pursue technology interests.
And last year, Creating IT Futures sponsored a gender-centric version of its signature IT-Ready program in Edina, Minn.
The eight-week class was hosted by EMERGE Career & Technology Center and funded by the City of Minneapolis Employment and Training, the Minneapolis Foundation Community Action Funds, North Star Fund, the Paul and Mary Reyelts Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation, and the Women’s Endowment Fund, a designated fund of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation.
At no cost to students, IT-Ready assesses, trains, certifies and places unemployed and underemployed adults in their first jobs in the IT field, which is experiencing a shortage of qualified workers. One year after 19 women graduated from the Edina program, 16 have found meaningful employment, said Sue Wallace, executive director of the Minnesota Creating IT Futures Foundation.
“Graduating a full class of women helped us serve an equal number of men and women last year. With continued efforts, we can truly begin to move the needle on the gender balance in the IT field,” she said. “It has been wonderful to follow the successes of those graduates over the past year. Hopefully, they will inspire a new wave of women to turn their curiosity of technology into meaningful careers.”
Kathryn Helmke graduated from that special IT-Ready class. She applied to the program after her family moved to Minnesota, a life change that required her to sell a successful Mexican pottery import business near Phoenix, Arizona.
“What I experienced in my eight weeks of IT-Ready training was this: A group of smart, focused, motivated people working in a team atmosphere,” she said. “We supported and encouraged each other; we shared information and study materials. It was probably the most supportive environment I’ve ever been in. I found the coursework challenging — it was all new to me and I definitely had to work at it. But I recognized the amount of resources invested in me and I didn’t want that to go to waste.”
After graduating from IT-Ready and earning her A+ certification last June, Helmke was hired as a full-time limited duration employee with Hennepin County, where she helped the county transition some 9,000 workstations and software from Windows 7 to Windows 10 hardware. When a permanent position opened in the county’s release management department, she applied and was hired as a release coordinator. She’s been working in that role for eight months now.
One of the benefits IT-Ready offers new graduates is the opportunity to study for and test for other CompTIA certifications at no cost. Thanks to IT-Ready, Helmke has earned her CompTIA Network+ certification and has registered for CompTIA Security+ certification training.
Since IT-Ready was established in Minneapolis / St. Paul in 2012, more than 200 individuals have graduated, Wallace said. Eighty-eight percent earned their CompTIA A+ certification and 88 percent of certified graduates moved into paid IT roles with area companies.
Creating IT Futures is an IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA, the voice of the world’s IT industry.