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January 18, 2019

IT-Ready Portland Gains Traction with Employers

By Karen Stinneford

With a full class kicking off its training this past Monday, 2019 promises to be a year of opportunity and growth for IT-Ready Portland, says Amy Eernisse-Liang, workforce solutions manager.


“We are really starting to gain some traction here,” she said.


Amy Eernisse-Liang


IT-Ready Portland was established in 2017 with support from Worksystems and the Urban League of Portland. The program assesses, trains, certifies and places unemployed and under-employed adults in entry-level tech jobs at no cost to participants.


During their eight weeks of instructor-led, classroom-based training, IT-Ready students learn how to take apart and build hardware, and configure, troubleshoot, and secure operating systems, computer networks, and peripherals. Students also receive targeted professional development in key business “soft” skills such as communication and presentation, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving.


At the end, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, qualifying them to apply for entry-level tech positions.


IT-Ready in Portland is made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. To qualify for training, applicants must complete a screening process through Worksource Portland Metro to determine eligibility for funding.


To date, 119 students in Portland have successfully completed IT-Ready training.


Since Eernisse-Liang joined IT-Ready last January, IT-Ready has been building relationships with local employers. U.S. Bank, for example, recently hired its seventh IT-Ready graduate.


Amy accepting flowers


“Developing those relationships is so important and will go a long way in helping connect our graduates with good employment opportunities,” she said.


But beyond hiring IT-Ready graduates, employers can contribute to the program’s success in many other ways, Eernisse-Liang said. Those ways include:


  1. Visiting an IT-Ready class and describing tech work.


    Most IT-Ready participants are brand-new to the field of information technology, Eernisse-Liang said. So it’s really helpful when more seasoned tech professionals come to class and share knowledge about how the IT industry works.  


  2. Conducting mock interviews for IT-Ready students.


    Time and again, IT-Ready graduates report that their mock interviews with experienced industry professionals helped them better prepare for a real interview.


    “Getting employers engaged with mock interviews helps our students identify what they did well and what they can improve upon so that when a real job is on the line, they can present themselves well and with confidence,” she said.

  3. Sponsoring alumni reunions and networking events.


    IT-Ready in Portland has hosted an alumni reunion and networking event that was both well attended and well received. Eernisse-Liang said she would love to conduct more.


  4. Hosting internships or apprenticeships.

    Sometimes employers — especially small businesses — don’t have the capacity to bring on a new full-time worker, she said. But IT-Ready would welcome employers who might be able to host an intern or an apprentice.


Amy in class


“I feel like employer engagement is really starting to build and that 2019 will be a great year for us,” she said. “Local employers are beginning to recognize that our program is solid and that they are getting some really great tech professionals as a result of it. This program changes lives so when you see that, it’s hard not to become passionate about it.”