When IT-Ready Apprentice Program graduate Ngina Baggett, 26, posed for a close-up this summer, she was a little bit apprehensive.
“You’re going to put my photo where?”
Just a few weeks later, her photo was on three billboards in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
“I love it!” said Baggett, who recently began a full-time technical support position that she credits IT-Ready’s training with helping her to land.
The billboards — two of which also feature a male Latino graduate — reflect Creating IT Futures' mission to change the face of IT. The IT industry is mostly male, about 3 men to every 1 woman, compared to a 1 to 1 ratio in the total U.S. workforce. Meanwhile, African-Americans and Latinos account for just 12 percent of the IT workforce, even though they make up about 26 percent of the entire workforce.
“We speak every day to women and minority workers who have found IT to be an amazing career that fits them. There’s no reason why we can’t spread that message and help more people discover the field,” said Eric Larson, director of marketing and communications for Creating IT Futures.
Typically, about a quarter of IT-Ready applicants in Minnesota are women, and a similar percentage are African-American or Hispanic.
The latest campaign includes radio ads on stations that have primarily female listeners, plus online ads in the Women’s Press weekly e-newsletter, which is sent to a mostly female audience each week.
The female-targeting advertising elements, which will run through early October when the next IT-Ready class begins in Minnesota, augment the usual recruitment efforts made through CareerBuilder, Craigslist, and Sunday newspaper help-wanted ads.
Finding that diamond in the rough applicant, says Larson, first means generating a large number of applications. Unfortunately, many viable candidates are unaware of the opportunities in IT — or even what information technology is all about.
“Information technology just isn’t a career field that is widely known or understood,” Larson said. Some workers believe the myth that you need to be a math genius to succeed in IT. “That’s part of the reason we think there are so many IT jobs open right now, between 200,000 and 300,000 nationally depending on what types of job roles you count.”
Many of those who apply already have IT jobs and are simply looking for something that pays more. Though IT-Ready could help this type of applicant gain some skills and a credential, the person’s current full-time position would likely carry just as much weight as an apprenticeship.
“We see the main value of our program being the six-month apprenticeship, which is a stepping stone to permanent IT work for our participants. Many companies won’t even consider a job applicant if they don’t have some form of on-the-job experience,” said Larson.
Others may see an opportunity in IT-Ready but may lack the inner drive that is required to complete and be successful in the program. To ferret out information about someone’s level of commitment, IT-Ready staff interview applicants by phone and have them take an online test to determine their work attitudes.
In addition, some who apply aren’t quite ready for the rigor of a full-time computing class. For this type of applicant, Creating IT Futures is designing a new program, tentatively called IT-Ready Boot Camp, which will help a person ramp up his or her computer literacy and communication skills prior to applying to the apprentice program.
Said Larson: “We think there are a lot of amazing people out there in dead-end jobs who could offer so much to the IT field and would appreciate a pathway to an upwardly mobile career. It’s our job to find them, and we’re going to keep trying new ways until we do.”
Interested parties in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota may apply at http://ITReady.com.