Chalk up another graduation for IT-Ready Minneapolis / St. Paul. Last week, 19 students represented the 2015 Spring graduating class – and the region’s ninth overall – as a bulk of the students earned their CompTIA A+ certification and are on their way to upwardly mobile careers in IT. The IT-Ready Minneapolis / St. Paul program has now graduated over 150 individuals.
“One thing that makes IT-Ready a huge success are the students,” said Kathy Brennan, manager of IT-Ready Minneapolis / St. Paul. “We told the students the stories about other people who have come through the program, and now we can’t wait to hear some new stories. They’re ready for jobs in IT.”
IT-Ready is a free, eight-week course offered across America by the Creating IT Futures Foundation and Per Scholas. To qualify, a person must be unemployed or under-employed. The program also looks for individuals from under-represented groups in information technology, such as women, African Americans and Hispanics.
“We all have a bright future ahead of us and we all have great opportunities lined up,” said student Peter Garofalo. “It’s crazy to think about the amount of information we have learned in these eight weeks and now we’re ready to apply it.”
“A lot of hard work was put in,” said Sue Wallace, executive director of Creating IT Futures for Minnesota. “Some of the students have already certified, which is awesome, but each and every one of them needs to be proud of the accomplishments that they have made.”
The keynote for the event was newly elected Creating IT Futures Foundation Chairman, James Afdahl, who is also vice president and CFO for GED Testing Service. GED Testing Service employs two IT-Ready alumni, which he says came in well prepared, reflecting everything the class goes through during the eight-week period.
“People who come through the IT-Ready program can show that they are technically capable,” Afdahl said. “The fact that the students have been here every day and have continued to work hard shows employers that they can come to IT-Ready and get a good employee, and that’s a big win for us.”
Last year, market research firm Burning Glass reported that there were nearly 137,000 tech industry jobs in Minnesota. Furthermore, tech jobs in the state have average salaries of $89,600 – 43 percent higher than other private sector jobs, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates report.
A majority of the IT-Ready graduates will find themselves in IT help desk or technical support roles with local companies. It is a way to get their feet wet in a new career that offers better upward mobility than most fields.
Within six months of becoming CompTIA A+ certified, IT-Ready graduates are invited to access free online training and testing vouchers for other CompTIA certifications, including CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Server+.
In addition to the technical skills tailored toward the CompTIA A+ exam, the program focuses on the soft professional skills that employers also need.
“One thing I noticed as each student came up to accept their certificate was a firm handshake, “ Afdahl added. “Direct eye contact as well. You’d be surprised at how far something so simple can take you.”
“We are all intelligent and we are all smart people,” said graduate Zachary Bensalih. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience with a group of supportive classmates. Not everyone in the IT workforce has a certification, but now we do, and that’s a nice tool to have in our repertoire. We all want this not just as a job, but as a career.”
IT-Ready will begin accepting applications for the October 2015 class starting tomorrow, June 30. To apply, please visit the application page.
Tom Liszka is Manager, Social and Digital Media, at the Creating IT Futures Foundation.