This summer, SLO County Office of Education, SLO Partners and Creating IT Futures embarked on a new career training and apprenticeship program to grow the tech workforce in the greater San Luis Obispo area of California.
With hundreds of applicants for 50 spots in the program, the three partners first launched two classes of Creating IT Futures’ IT-Ready career program. Each class trained toward CompTIA A+ certification. Plus, these two classes were underwritten by the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, so that each student received a stipend of $70 a day – a first for any IT-Ready program. The SLO County Office of Education was awarded funding through the California Apprenticeship Initiative.
After eight weeks of training, the first cohort graduated this month. Seventy percent of the students are moving forward into the paid apprenticeship part of the program, with about half learning IT networking and security and the other half learning about software testing for six weeks. The apprentices then will begin a year of salaried, on-the-job training with local employers. The other 30 percent of the students are being introduced to local employers for immediate job openings.
During the graduation, Amy Kardel, president and co-founder of Clever Ducks, a managed IT services provider based in San Luis Obispo, and chair of CompTIA, told the students, “If there’s a will, there’s a way. This industry allows you to learn every day. Welcome to our tech community.”
Graduate Madeline Gorge, who’s moving onto the networking and security apprenticeship track, remarked, “This class could have become a competitive environment, but instead we helped each other get better.”
Graduate Elissa Murray, who’s moving along to the same track as Gorge, echoed her sentiments, “We all pitched in to make us successful.”
Many the students formed study groups, meeting after class and on the weekends. It was one of the most successful cohorts in IT-Ready’s history, with more than 70 percent of the class passing their CompTIA A+ exams on the first try before graduation. The rest of the students will continue to study on their own throughout this month to pass their exams.
Graduate Victoria Farelas, who’s on the software testing apprentice track, promised to “keep learning” and was “grateful for the friends I made in class”.
Several students remarked on how inspiring and dedicated their teachers were. “I’ve had a blast. I didn’t realize how fun education can be,” said graduate and future apprentice Kevin Tran.
One of the older students Michael Bivins, who’s also moving along to the apprenticeship track, jested, “this program proves there’s hope for old people,” while accepting his graduation certificate. “This was one of the biggest opportunities of my life,” he added.
Graduate Justin Rucker summed up the program as “this is like the golden ticket.” Rucker and 16 of his classmates are moving onto the networking/security apprentice track today.
SLO Partners’ Dan Weeks told the graduates, “We want 1,000 new workers in tech in San Luis Obipso. You all are the first 46. We’re in it with you for the long-term. This is not a pass/fail course. We’ll keep pushing you along.”
Even the graduates who were not accepted into the first apprenticeship cohort for additional training classes this fall still can be accepted into future cohorts, if they pursue their CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications through the IT-Ready alumni benefit program. If there is strong employer demand, they’ll be able to rejoin the first cohort for on-the-job training this winter.
The next cohort will start training on January 29 in San Luis Obispo. Applications will open online at www.slopartners.org later this fall.
Michael Specchierla of the SLO County Office of Education said, “Let’s get the next wave in here in January. I look forward to you (the graduates) helping the next cohort.”