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November 2, 2017
By Lisa Dare
In theory, bootcamps could bridge the growing gulf between IT openings and skilled talent to fill them, while helping improve tech’s diversity profile.
But the theoretical merits of tech bootcamps haven’t always translated to reality. Bootcamp graduates often have a hard time finding jobs even after performing well in class, and the employers who do hire from bootcamps are sometimes disappointed by the grads’ skills and professionalism.
But one camp, IT-Ready, seems to have figured out a path forward: take highly motivated students with solid support structures, put them through a rigorous program, help them earn a well-respected certification, and place them in roles where they’ll realistically succeed.
Creating IT Futures, a charitable organization funded by CompTIA, helps groups underrepresented in tech transition into IT careers, a benefit to both the jobseekers and employers.
The IT-Ready program provides two months of classroom training and hands-on project development to a carefully screened set of applicants—for free. The program also helps students prepare and pay for the CompTIA A+ certification, the industry standard for entry-level IT workers. That certification makes a huge difference for employers, who want to be sure new hires have the right skills to succeed.
The missing link between camps and careers
What many camps lack that IT-Ready provides is career coaching. Not just advice on how to get the job, but how to succeed in it.
Candidates without professional experience—whatever their background —are always a tough sell for employers, who often have to spend valuable time coaching them on workplace norms like effective communication, managing different personalities, being on time and adopting customer service mindset.
Entry-level candidates often need more than a certification to get a job. They need clear resumes, interview skills, a sense of what employers are looking for, a professional demeanor —and an often overlooked trait, confidence.
That’s where Brandon Woods, a Communications account manager with TEKsystems, came in. Brandon, along with 10 experienced IT recruiters from his team, met with the Charlotte, North Carolina, IT-Ready participants every two weeks for the course of the program.
“After helping hundreds of employers find candidates for IT jobs, I know a lot about what employers look for and expect, and I was able to share the hiring manager’s perspective,” says Woods.
“It’s our mission to help diverse workers find meaningful career opportunity, and to support the tech world in welcoming and including those workers."
Woods and other TEKsystems recruiting experts coached the IT-Ready students in how to prepare resumes and apply for professional jobs. They also taught important skills for interviewing, including nonverbal behavior like firm handshakes and good eye contact. The recruiters held mock interviews and gave feedback so the students could gain practice and confidence.
Woods also helped organize a panel of employers so the bootcamp students could hear for themselves what hiring managers look for. The panel included local IT employers, including a senior vice president of a Fortune 500 company.
After the camp completed, TEKsystems recruiters were able to secure technical support contract positions for seven of the graduates. “Getting that first IT job is critical,” says Woods. “Employers value candidates with proven experience, so having that first job on your resume opens a lot of doors.”
The IT-Ready program doesn’t end at graduation. Creating IT Futures provides additional career support to candidates, as well as financial assistance with earning next-level certifications like the CompTIA Server+ and the CCNP.
Shaping a skilled and diverse workforce
While tech companies and IT teams face well-known shortages for high-level skills like software engineering and AI, they’re also having trouble finding talent to support end users. And tech support is a terrific entry point for IT talent, who may then branch into other areas like infrastructure and InfoSec.
TEKsystems approached Creating IT Futures with the goal of creating a pop-up camp in Charlotte (and we funded 100 percent of the cost) because we knew some clients in the area would commit to hiring graduates. We also knew we had enough recruiters to support the students with resume and interview coaching.
“We saw the opportunity to support our community and our customers,” says Franklin Reed, TEKsystems director of diversity and inclusion. “It’s our mission to help diverse workers find meaningful career opportunity, and to support the tech world in welcoming and including those workers.”
For Brandon Woods, the mission is personal. “The people I worked with feel more equipped to sit across the table from a director or manager and hold their own in an interview. It’s reassuring knowing I can impact the trajectory of someone’s life.”