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it worker future

A real-world approach to connecting low-income workers with IT jobs

May 19, 2015
By Lisa Dare

It seems like a simple solution—businesses need IT help, and low-income communities need good jobs. But what if funding training IT opportunities isn’t enough?

In addition to helping fund IT training programs through the Per Scholas organization, TEKsystems staff are getting involved at the field level, investing sweat equity to bridge the gap from training to actual jobs.

What skills do IT-trained students need to get jobs?

Per Scholas provides free IT training and a CompTIA A+ certification through its IT-Ready program with the aim of preparing low-income students to work in IT support positions. But businesses are looking for more than just IT skills; they also want workers who understand their business culture. And many companies are reluctant to take a chance on hiring newly minted students, especially if their resumes or interview skills seem unpolished.

That’s where Mark Borgerson, an IT support account manager, and Russell Smyth, an IT support recruiter, come in. They’re among the TEKsystems staff working with IT-Ready students to prepare them with real-life skills needed to start IT careers.

The two staffers visited the Silver Spring, Maryland, IT-Ready class several times throughout the eight-week program. In one session, they discussed how candidates could market themselves, what the IT hiring market looked like in their area, and how to prepare for interviews. “The students had a lot of great questions,” said Russell.

Mark and Russell also conducted mock interviews. They met with each student to ask sample interview questions, then provided feedback on the answers and gave advice like how to discuss their work experience. They also discussed nonverbal traits like body language and posture. “A lot of people talk with their hands, which can be distracting” says Russell. “I coach them on that.”

TEKsystems also works with some of the IT-Ready grads after the program in a recruiting capacity, and our Reston office has helped students win interviews with potential employers. These haven’t yet resulted in jobs, but Mark thinks even the interview is good experience. “Our biggest hurdle is marketing inexperienced workers to IT managers, helping them see the candidates’ potential so they can get that first job and real-life experience,” says Mark. “But I think we’ll have some success with the more training-oriented organizations that hire more junior candidates.”

The Per Scholas organization will draw on Mark and Russell’s IT staffing expertise even more in the future, involving them in the highly selective admission process, which helps ensure the resources go to the students most likely to benefit.

Per Scholas and TEKsystems have created similar partnerships across the country where the IT-Ready program exists, including Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota; New York City, and they are working to add new locations in the future.

“A lot of the people we worked with have gotten jobs already,” says Mark. “It’s pretty rewarding.”

Read more about the partnership between Per Scholas and TEKsystems

Nurturing an unlikely pipeline of IT talent

Lisa Dare is a marketing writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech. She frequently blogs about IT career advice and the lighter side of technology, and on her off days loves to kayak and play with her toddler son.

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