Nathaniel Perkins thought he was on track for a great technology career before it was derailed unexpectedly. A few years ago, he graduated from Chicago’s tech-focused Walter Payton College Prep and went straight to work for a nationwide broadband company where he got the call when there was a tricky install or a business needed some next-level networking.
“They’d call me for the challenging stuff,” he said. Just as his professional technology gears starting churning, the company laid off all of the senior techs — and then hired less experienced newbies at lower salaries. Perkins has been trying since 2015 to find another position where he could explore his technology interests. “Since then I’ve been bouncing around,” he said, “looking for a way back into IT.”
Today, he’s in luck. It’s the first day of Chicago’s IT-Ready tech training program, an 8-week, full-time, classroom program is hosted at NEIU’s El Centro Campus. He’s one of 24 students who will get education, training and job placement for free thanks to support from Boeing, Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project.
It’s the first in a series, and the next Chicago IT-Ready Technical Support Class starts April 22, 2019. If you have a GED or high school diploma and meet a few other requirements, you can apply online. Applications are due by March 22. Apply now.
When Perkins found IT-Ready, he was excited to find a program that offered formal job training, soft skills and job placement. “It was like something from God, straight to you,” he said.
His classmate Nicole Sain said she felt the same way. She’d been working as a real estate underwriter and got laid off right after having twins. “I want people to know how important this opportunity is for me,” she said. “This is essentially another way for me to start over.”
Connecting the Technology Workforce
On the first day of class, they learned about number sets and why programming language starts with zero instead of 1.
“Get used to breaking something down to its most simplistic form,” instructor Sean Callinan told the class. He’s manager of training operations for CompTIA, and introduces each class to the basics of programming language. The Chicago class of IT-Ready students will dive into four weeks of technology basics and by the end of 8 weeks have all the information needed to earn CompTIA’s A+ certification. They’ll also dive into networking and security before graduation, and get a chance to take the exam and earn their first technical certification.
“At the end of the day, they’re CompTIA A+ certified and they also have those professional business skills we teach as well,” said Kathy Brennan, director of national workforce solutions for IT-Ready. “They’re ready on day one, ready with professional skills and IT skills.”
IT-Ready connects people who want technology jobs with companies like Advanced Data Technologies looking to hire new CompTIA A+ certified technologists. “We know that especially smaller managed services providers don’t have time to go through all resumes, and we’re able vet these students for them and find people who are a good fit,” Brennan said.
As for the students, they can get a professional introduction to the IT world. “That’s where IT-Ready can open the door for them,” she said. “We can give them an 8-week class and a certification, and certification opens so many doors.”
IT-Ready Changing Lives
The class is full of students ready to change their career paths. “Before I was floating around, trying to turn hobbies into careers,” said Devonte McDonald.
Dom Simpson was working for a heavy machinery company downstate in Peoria, Illinois, and Kendal Castillo was working as a customer service rep at a pharmaceutical company. He started looking for another job when they kept cutting his hours. “I was looking online for entry -level jobs that required no experience,” Castillo said. “No luck, but I found IT-Ready.”
Brennan is excited to see Chicago’s first IT-Ready class at NEIU set the tone for the program. “I’m excited to see the number of women in the class as well,” she said. “We want to dispel that myth about IT being male dominated. The more women who enroll, the more stories we’ll be able to tell. I can’t wait to see how the next 8 weeks unfolds.”
The next Chicago IT-Ready Technical Support Class starts April 22. Applications are due March 22. Apply now.