Natasha Pender was reviewing statistics from IT-Ready Charlotte’s first full year of operation when she received an email from one of the program’s graduates.
He was writing to share that he recently earned a promotion. Now that he was a supervisor, he was in the position to make his first hire — and it was someone who just happened to be another IT-Ready Charlotte graduate.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better than that,” Pender said. “There are so many of these success stories, too. For me, this is very rewarding work.”
Pender is the workforce solutions manager for IT-Ready Charlotte, one of the newest permanent training sites in the IT-Ready network. The site just completed its first full year of operation, for which Pender has carefully been documenting statistics.
Of 110 participants who completed IT-Ready training in Charlotte to date, 83 earned their CompTIA A+ certification. Sixty-one participants secured full-time employment within the tech industry. Students who graduated at the end of December are interviewing with prospective employers now, and should receive offers within the next few weeks.
More than just a job
Beyond the numbers, however, Pender points to ways IT-Ready Charlotte is making a positive contribution to its new community.
For example, one participant was a single mom who had children when she was just a teenager, and recently got out of an abusive relationship.
“For her, this program will prove life changing — allowing her financial freedom and flexibility to make choices she otherwise would never be able to make,” Pender said. “We are changing lives here. These stories are the sorts of things that make my job so incredible.”
Working in partnership with Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont and Charlotte Works with support from employers like TEKsystems, IT-Ready assesses, trains, certifies and places unemployed and under-employed adults in their first jobs in the information technology.
And the field of IT is in great need of more qualified tech workers. With more than 49,000 tech workers, Charlotte is the largest tech city in North Carolina. During the next 10 years, CompTIA expects the number of IT jobs in Charlotte to grow by 24 percent.
IT-Ready is a program of Creating IT Futures, the IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA.
And tech offers newcomers family-sustaining wages. 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.
The IT-Ready difference
Offered completely free to charge, IT-Ready is an eight-week, classroom-based, instructor-led program that teaches participants a wide range of hardware and software skills needed for entry-level IT positions.
Just as importantly, though, IT-Ready teaches critical soft professional skills, such as workplace etiquette; communication and presentation; teamwork and colloboration; 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.
For Pender — who came to IT-Ready Charlotte with more than a decade worth of experience in workforce development — IT-Ready’s curriculum is what sets it apart as a sustainably successful job-training program.
“We aren’t just asking unemployed people to come to our center and scroll through a listing of jobs for which they may or may not have the necessary skills,” she said. “Because we are sector based, we know we are equipping our students with relevant knowledge and information to help them succeed within IT.”
2019 promises even more growth
In 2019, IT-Ready Charlotte will launch a new curriculum, IT-Ready QA, which will teach participants the foundational skills to become a software tester. Also an eight-week program, IT-Ready QA teaches students what’s required to test and support software throughout its life cycle, principles of test design, risk management, agile development, and identifying best practices for mobile software testing.
Another growth opportunity for IT-Ready Charlotte is reaching out to even more employers to make them aware of the workplace-ready tech candidates IT-Ready is producing.
“We definitely want to increase the number of employers who are aware of the services we offer,” Pender said. “We made a lot of progress in 2018, so I am excited to see what this new year brings.”