Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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August 21, 2012

Stepping Up to the Plate

The eight-week IT-Ready Apprentice Program wasn’t conceived simply as a way to help adults gain a Certificate of Completion, or even to get them their first IT certification.

Though IT-Ready accomplishes those things, the program would be considered a failure if it didn’t place a high percentage of its participants into work roles. 

Fortunately, to-date, more than 80 percent of the IT-Ready graduates in the two training sites (Cincinnati and Mpls. / St. Paul) have been placed in full-time apprenticeships with local companies. The remaining candidates are still in the midst of interviews.

Their success is owed to companies that step up to the plate and offer to take on a new worker on a trial basis, usually for six months, paying up to $15 an hour for full-time work.  

For some companies, the motivation to work with IT-Ready is their bottom line. Finding workers with the right mix of technical and professional skills isn’t always easy. According to which tracks the availability of IT-related jobs, up to 300,000 IT jobs are currently going unfilled. High competition for workers means high turnover for a lot of companies — and that churn can get expensive.  

For other companies, it’s a matter of being able to try out an employee on an apprenticeship basis for six months — while also knowing that every dollar in wages goes directly to the employee. “We like the ‘give-back’ component,” said Brian Hubers, vice president at MTCit in Cincinnati. With a temp agency, the sourcing company has to take a percentage off the top. As a funded charity, IT-Ready is able for the apprentice to pocket 100 percent of the wages he or she earns.

In the case of MTCit, that apprentice is Adam Henson, whose work previous to IT-Ready was as a utility meter reader.

Henson thought he could achieve more, and he’s getting the chance at MTCit.

“I've already learned more in my first few days there about VOIP telephony than I ever thought I would, and I know we've only scratched the surface,” Henson said. “There's a great atmosphere there, with terrific co-workers. I know I can learn a lot from everyone.”

The Spring 2012 Mpls. / St. Paul IT-Ready Class saw participants land at companies such as Covidien, the GED Testing Service, HealthPartners, Medica, and SecureConnect.

In Cincinnati, Tata Consultancy Services, Pomeroy, Luxottica Group, and MTCit are a few companies that decided to take a bet on that city’s first IT-Ready class.

The impression made on the IT-Ready graduates is extraordinary. Many of the participants had been out of work for more than a year, sometimes stuck in industries such as manufacturing that had bleak prospects for growth and hiring.

“Finally, after 22 months of unemployment I will return to the workforce,” said Bob Garner, who started with Twin-Cities-based Medica on Aug. 13, 2012. “This means so much to my family.”

Recruiting employers for IT-Ready has been the main task of Chris Williams in Cincinnati and Kathy Brennan in the Twin Cities. Both have done extensive networking with business leaders in their area to tell the IT-Ready story and make a good match between an apprentice’s skills and a company's entry-level job opportunities. 

“The organizations we are working with first and foremost are profitable companies that expect a return on their time and investments,” noted Brennan, who always tries to emphasize the extra effort that IT-Ready makes to screen, train, and help participants certify as CompTIA A+.

“After companies learned the value of our services, they were even more pleased to know their efforts are helping those in need,” Brennan said.

For Williams, the success is still unfolding daily as apprentices succeed on the job thanks to companies that want to develop their newest hires. 

“One of our employers has an opening in a new project and wants to consider one of our remaining apprentices to fill the position,” Williams said. “Here is the really neat part: Melanie Gall (another IT-Ready graduate) is going to be the lead for the new project.”

For Williams, that's what IT-Ready is all about. "It’s great to see our apprentices land in good jobs at great companies — but it’s even better to hear they are doing well."