Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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March 21, 2016

TEKsystems in Philadelphia finds work-ready employees with IT-Ready

In her role as an account manager for end-user services at TEKsystems in Radnor, Penn., Jess Stevenson spends a good deal of time hiring people for entry-level IT positions.

Admittedly, these positions are on the early rungs of the IT career ladder. But it’s a ladder, Stevenson is quick to remind people, and how they approach it matters.

“These positions offer the chance to really grow as a professional,” she said. “So when I am talking with someone about an entry-level position, I want to hear about their goals and aspirations — and I want to see a plan for how they’re going to get there.”

That’s why Stevenson looks for more than technical skills when she hires for entry-level positions. It’s important to her that a job candidate has vision — the ability to see beyond “what is” to “what’s possible” with hard work and perseverance.

“Frankly, I want to see good, old-fashioned grit,” she said. “Maturity, with a strong work ethic.”

And when it comes to job candidates with grit, IT-Ready delivers.

Offered by the IT charity, Creating IT Futures, IT-Ready is an eight-week, classroom-based, IT training and career program. It is offered free of charge to unemployed, under-employed and displaced workers; women and ethnic minorities under-represented in IT; and veterans and their spouses or caregivers.

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 IT-Ready, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, after which they may qualify for a six-month paid apprenticeship with a local participating company, usually in the role of help-desk or technical support. Such on-the-job experiences often lead to permanent, full-time employment.

IT-Ready is offered in Minneapolis / St. Paul by Creating IT Futures, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA. It’s also offered in permanent sites in New York City, Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, in partnership with the non-profit organization, Per Scholas, and in temporary, “pop up” locations.

One of those pop-up locations was Omaha. Stevenson said that her TEKsystems colleagues in Omaha found several strong job candidates through IT-Ready, and encouraged her to get involved when IT-Ready opened a pop-up location in Philadelphia — which she did. Stevenson volunteered to conduct mock job interviews for IT-Ready students.

“We found that they were exactly the kind of candidates we want to work with: professional and reliable,” she said.

Because each session of IT-Ready receives hundreds of applications for its two-dozen spots, IT-Ready thoroughly pre-screens candidates for basic literacy and math abilities and customer care skills, and conducts criminal background checks. The program also places an emphasis on a student’s professional comportment.

Stevenson attests that professionalism and customer service are critical for her, too.

“We place individuals in work environments that range from hospitals to law firms,” she said. “It’s important that our representatives look professional and that they communicate clearly and with tact.”

Stevenson encourages other employers to give IT-Ready graduates a chance.

“Give them a shot,” she said. “You’ll be very surprised at how well it works out.”