Carlos Rivera, IT-Ready GraduateAs he completed his second associate’s degree from the Community College of Philadelphia, Carlos Ignacio Rivera found himself in the same place he was after he earned his first degree — wondering what to do next.
Then a friend told him about IT-Ready, which provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT education and training free of charge to admitted students from target audiences that include displaced and underemployed, ethnic minorities and women.
IT-Ready students learn skills such as building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems, and setting up and managing networks. They also learn softer professional skills, such as communication, customer service and job interviewing.
At the end of the classroom training, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, after which they may qualify for a six-month paid, on-the-job work experience with a local partner company, usually in the role of help-desk or technical support.
Rivera’s friend urged him to apply.
“He told me I should not brush this off,” Rivera said.
The Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA, sponsored IT-Ready in Philadelphia on a one-time, “pop up” basis because of strong local market demand. The market research firm, Burning Glass, reported that Philadelphia had nearly 50,000 open IT jobs that couldn’t be filled because of a lack of qualified applicants.
Approximately 450 people applied for IT-Ready, and 21 applicants were admitted into the program. Rivera was one of them although, like many other IT-Ready applicants, he was initially skeptical about the program’s promises.
“I figured I had nothing to lose, though,” he said. “The worst-case scenario was that someone would get my phone number and email address and spam me. The best-case scenario was I’d get my CompTIA A+ certification and a foot in the door to a decent career and living.”
When he enrolled in IT-Ready, Rivera already possessed robust knowledge in information technology. He had an associate’s degree in computer and information sciences and support services, and had worked part-time for years at Community College of Philadelphia providing technical support to students working in the school’s computer labs.
“Although I got into technology somewhat later in life than some people, it turns out I’m really good at it,” he said. “I even started my own IT business in my neighborhood, because I knew how to operate and fix computers, and I knew how to troubleshoot problems. I could tinker and solve problems and I felt a sense of accomplishment about that.”
But what Rivera was lacking when he encountered IT-Ready, he said, was a vision for his future, as well as the discipline to bring it to fruition.
“Really, what IT-Ready taught me were all the soft skills — the work ethic, the expectations of the work place, the dress code,” he said. “My normal get-up was a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. And I was late to my first aptitude test. They gave me a second chance.”
IT-Ready instructors expected students to act like business professionals, Rivera said, and their confidence in the ability of IT-Ready students to meet that expectation inspired him.
“They called it putting on the uniform of the person you want to be, and that really hit home with me, that becoming an IT professional was something I could do,” he said. “This program was the most serious thing I ever did in my life. From where I grew up, I never saw myself as a winner. Now I can say I got my CompTIA A+ certification and I am going somewhere.”
After graduation, Rivera accepted a paid internship with Aramark, working as an intern system administrator. He says he loves his work.
“IT-Ready changed my life — and really, the results speak for themselves,” he said.
Now Rivera says he’d like to express his gratitude for IT-Ready by giving back to his community.
“I grew up in a not-great area, and people there just don’t have many opportunities,” he said. “I’d love to someday open a community computer lab that offers free printing, or assistance with homework — something that offers kids a positive alternative to a lot that goes on in the neighborhood.”
IT-Ready is offered in Minneapolis / St. Paul by the Creating IT Futures Foundation. It’s also offered in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Dallas; and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, in partnership with the non-profit organization, Per Scholas.
Because IT-Ready is free for students — with support that includes computers and training manuals — the program costs about $5,000 per student. Your tax-deductible contribution can help the Foundation offer IT-Ready to more students like Rivera. Get more details here.