Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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September 19, 2012

Assessing for Success

It was the last day of assessments, a day that would determine the final make-up of Cincinnati’s second IT-Ready class which prepares individuals for a CompTIA A+ certification and a full-time paid apprenticeship with a local company.  

The candidate arrived barely on time, breathing heavily and sweating. Despite the shaky start, he passed his assessment exams and his interview went well.

At the end of the interview, Amy Spear, Senior Manager for National Workforce Development Programs, asked the applicant why he seemed so out-of-sorts upon his arrival.

He explained: His child’s mother needed his car to drive their child to school. So he took the bus and rode his bike several miles to the testing center.

To Spear, an eight-year staff member of the Creating IT Futures Foundation, it was apparent: Here was someone who was determined to succeed. Everything else being in order with his application and assessments, the man was offered placement in the free eight-week IT training course, which begins on Oct. 15, 2012.

Putting together a group of adult students for IT-Ready is one of the most rewarding duties Spear experiences. “They are ecstatic when they get chosen. It’s really nice.”

But it’s not easy. Some may think most of the heavy lifting for a nonprofit training program happens in the classroom. But Spear will tell you that a great deal of effort happens before the students step foot into the classroom. Much of Spear’s time is spent overseeing operations for the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, which debuted in Cincinnati and the Twin Cities, Minnesota, in Spring, 2012.

Assembling a typical class of 15 to 20 students starts with poring over 200-plus applications and figuring out who would most benefit and be able to complete the program successfully.

The majority of those who fill out an online application are phoned for a brief interview. “We ask them why they decided to apply, what is their interest in IT,” Spear says. She and other IT-Ready team members are assessing the candidate’s phone demeanor, “to gauge their level of engagement.” Financial need is taken into consideration.

The candidate is asked about their availability for eight weeks of full-time training, as well as transportation to and from the classes.

If the phone interview goes smoothly, the candidate is invited to complete two online assessments within the next 48 hours. A personality assessment examines the candidate’s work style, while a computer literacy test ascertains the most basic skills, such as surfing the Web and downloading files.

The next stage is an in-person two-part assessment exam that measures literacy and math skills. Typically, applicants must score on the 10th grade level on both tests to make it to the next stage, which is an in-person interview during the same visit.

Applicants receive study guides for the literacy and math assessments before testing, and some are allowed to re-test the following week if their scores are borderline.

Those who don’t make it through all the steps may receive referrals to workforce boards, vocational rehabilitation, and other programs that could help the candidate bring up their education and skills.

Finally, a candidate must pass a criminal background check to gain final acceptance into the class. This is mainly due to the fact that participating employers will do a similar check before accepting someone as an apprentice. “It doesn’t make any sense to raise someone’s expectations with the program, only to have them hit a brick wall at the end of the day,” Spear said.

The assessment process for the Spring IT-Ready classes seemed to hit its mark. About 95 percent of the students graduated from the program, with 90 percent passing the CompTIA A+ certification exams and 90 percent receiving company apprenticeships.

Spear is excited about the Fall IT-Ready classes in both Cincinnati and the Twin Cities. The classes’ make-up includes more women and military veterans, two groups that Creating Futures has worked hard to target for IT careers.

Will they be as successful as the first group? Spear has a high level of confidence.

Said Spear: “These candidates are hungry to succeed.”