What appealed to the workforce development expert was how IT-Ready focuses on establishing careers.
“IT-Ready isn’t just a job training program; we aren’t helping people find ‘a job,’” Pender said. “We are helping folks establish long-term, rewarding careers — careers through which they really can make it in life and support their families.”
Creating IT Futures — the workforce IT charity founded by CompTIA that developed IT-Ready — recently expanded to Charlotte, thanks to funding from TEKsystems and additional grant support from Google to Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. Creating IT Futures will offer four IT-Ready classes in 2018 at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus.
America’s tech industry is actively hiring, yet there’s an acute shortage of qualified workers such that 500,000+ jobs go unfilled daily. North Carolina is not exempt from this dilemma; employers in the state advertised 90,200 tech jobs last year.
With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating growth in IT will outpace other industries, these IT positions offer family-sustaining wages and upwardly mobile career paths without requiring a college degree.
Since 2012, IT-Ready has trained adults throughout the United States for entry-level IT jobs — with 86 percent of graduates securing full-time tech jobs, and 85 percent remaining in the industry for at least two years. And IT-Ready seeks to offer a career path to people traditionally under-represented in the tech industry — such as unemployed and under-employed workers, veterans, people of color, and women.
Offered completely free to charge, IT-Ready is an eight-week, classroom-based, instructor-led program. Students learn a wide range of hardware and software skills ranging from taking apart and building desktop computers to troubleshooting networks, displays, printers, and operating systems.
Just as importantly, IT-Ready also teaches critical soft professional skills, such as workplace etiquette; communication and presentation; teamwork and collaboration; critical thinking and problem solving; and customer service. Grounded in these key skills, IT-Ready graduates are prepared to apply them on day one of their new jobs.
At the end of IT-Ready, students sit for the CompTIA A+ certification exam, also offered free of charge. This vendor-neutral certification has become the IT industry's preferred qualifying credential for an entry-level tech role.
Creating IT Futures expects the number of IT jobs in Charlotte to grow by 24 percent within the next 10 years. Charlotte already boasts more than 49,000 tech workers, making the city the largest tech employer in the state.
And these jobs are highly desirable: The average salary of an IT job in North Carolina is 99 percent higher than the average state wage, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates market research.
That’s the aspect of IT-Ready that Pender finds so encouraging. While an IT-Ready education and CompTIA A+ certification gives graduates skills needed for an entry-level IT position, entry level is not where people must forever remain. The IT industry rewards an individual’s hard work, experience and ambition with advancement, she said.
Pender comes to IT-Ready with significant experience in workforce development. Prior to joining Creating IT Futures, she served as project manager for the Senior Community Service Employment Program at Centralina Area on Aging. And before that, she worked with the Centralina Workforce Development Board, overseeing youth-focused Workforce Investment Act programs.
“My biggest challenge will be getting the word out to employers,” Pender said. “As a partner with us, TEKsystems knows IT-Ready well and actively recruits our graduates. By this time next year, I’d like for another 6 to 8 employers regularly coming to IT-Ready for help filling their entry-level IT positions. It’s an exciting challenge and I am definitely up for it.”