This past month, Jim Afdahl, vice president and chief financial officer of GED Testing Service in Minnesota, was named chairman of the board of the Creating IT Futures Foundation.
“Jim has been an inspirational and generous leader for us in Minnesota over the past three years as we’ve built our IT-Ready training program,” said Charles Eaton, CEO of Creating IT Futures Foundation. “I look forward to our discussions and debates about the on-ramps to IT careers that we will create next.”
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.
“Every community needs this,” said Afdahl. “Every community has unemployed or underemployed people with jobs going unfilled. We provide that match, and that’s unique."
It is also a unique spot for Afdahl, who says he happened to stumble upon his interest in technology by accident.
“I have always had a finance role in a company,” said Afdahl. “But as I got used to managing the implementation of accounting systems, I started working with tech people, so I learned how to manage them and learned about their processes.”
“One of the reasons I like working with and around tech people is their individual and collaborative ability to solve problems. It's really fun to throw them a challenging situation and watch them go to work.”
Specifically, Afdahl believes students who graduate the IT-Ready program are ready to face the challenges head on.
“People who come through the IT-Ready program can show that they are technically capable,” said Afdahl. “It’s fun to see 20 people come through and make it, but there are thousands out there that could benefit from this. As an employer, you can hire these individuals, as it’s not much of a leap of faith. These folks are coming out trained and have shown they are smart.”
“The ability to find partners so we can replicate this around the country is becoming a doable vision. The more people that find out about the program, the more they will realize it works and wonder why they aren’t involved.”
Afdahl also noted that when starting the IT-Ready program, most of the students do not have an IT background.
“It’s pretty amazing that they apply, but they are putting themselves in a rewarding situation because tech jobs are not going away. They can take their skills anywhere. They have earned that next step.”
Added Afdahl, “Maybe I like working with tech people because I know I don't have to be, or can't be, the one with the answers. Also, maybe I've been lucky to work with people who don't say ‘it can't be done,’ but rather ‘how will we do it?’”
Tom Liszka is Manager, Social and Digital Media, at the Creating IT Futures Foundation.