When her daughter approached the end of fourth grade, Vanessa Dalkhaa prepared to return to the workforce full time. Her challenge? What, exactly, to do.
Dalkhaa had a number of avenues open to her. With an undergraduate degree in French and most of her master’s degree in secondary education completed, Dalkaa could have pursued teaching. Teaching was, after all, integral to the part-time work she had been doing for five years at the English Learning Center, a non-profit school for adult immigrants and refugees.
“I was researching job and training opportunities,” she said. “Though there were some appealing job possibilities, I aspired to expand my employment prospects by getting additional training.”
It was while Dalkhaa was examining her options that she found a flyer for a free, women-only IT-Ready class in Edina, MN, sponsored by Creating IT Futures, EMERGE Community Development and the City of Minneapolis. As part of the Minneapolis TechHire initiative, the IT-Ready class would train and certify information technology workers and help place them into their first paid IT role.
Since IT-Ready was established in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 2012, the program has graduated more than 200 individuals, with 88 percent earning their CompTIA A+ certification and 88 percent of certified graduates moving into paid IT roles with area companies.
Dalkhaa said the IT-Ready flyer intrigued her immediately.
“When I researched it further, I was certain that this rare opportunity could open doors to jobs that were out of my reach,” she said. “One reason I sought training prior to beginning my job search is because I have an enthusiasm for learning. I like stretching my abilities, and I have always been inclined to make attempts to fix broken things.”
During IT-Ready training, students participate in hands-on labs taking apart and building desktop computers and other hardware. They learn about motherboards, printers, peripheral devices, memory and physical storage, connections and mobile devices. They set up computer networks and troubleshoot networks, displays, printers, and operating systems. And they configure operating systems and hardware; and secure networks, systems and data.
All IT-Ready students also receive targeted professional development in key business “soft” skills such as professional communication and presentation, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. After completing IT-Ready training, students sit for the CompTIA A+ certification exam, which covers desktop and help-desk technical support duties and skills.
Women who participated in the gender-specific IT-Ready class received free tuition, books and learning materials; more than 200 hours of classroom and hands-on training; and certification vouchers toward the CompTIA A+ exam.
Dalkhaa said her IT-Ready training was comprehensive and exactly what she needed to launch her newfound IT career.
“IT-Ready gave me some tools that I am currently using to build a vast learning trajectory,” she said. “With technology, I realize that I am working toward preliminary steps to pour concrete into a foundation that will one day hold the Empire State Building. There’s so much to learn.”
Upon receiving her CompTIA A+ certification, Dalkhaa accepted a job with Hennepin County, for which the county seat is Minneapolis. An IT Specialist, Associate, Dalkhaa works on various assignments with the Software Intake and Validation team and Release Management to ensure a smooth county-wide migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10.
“IT-Ready gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to get my foot in the door of a career I hope will last for many years to come,” she said. “IT-Ready opened the first door to my relatively new career. Five years from now, I envision myself using my Hennepin County employee badge to open other doors within the IT department that I have yet to walk though.”