The coffee was brewed; every seat was filled, every computer fired up. Seventeen Workforce and TANF students leaned forward in their seats as the first Workforce program in the nation to offer an IT training and career path officially kicked off.
Monday, August 20 this collaboratively deliberate, focused career path program began, offering WIOA* and TANF* participants entry level IT training, through a collaboration with private industry, disparate funding sources, internship opportunities, focused resume workshops, and a job fair at the end of the 10-week program.
In Jeffco, it's all about collaborating with partners. The seed of the idea was planted when Commissioner Libby Szabo capitalized on her contacts by connecting Workforce staff with CompTIA - or the Computing Technology Industry Association - a national association which brings together IT vendors and partners, and now offers key IT certifications for the industry.
In turn, Workforce staff led by Workforce Program Manager Michelle Foley, Business Services Supervisor Nevine Laughlin, and Work-Based Learning Coordinator Mike Aman connected with Jim Smith (now retired) and Andy Corbett, Chief Technology Officer. Together with CompTIA, they created the 10-week program that provides participants with a host of opportunities. It includes a foundational two-week training that then intensifies with an internship component with Jefferson County's IT employees for the next eight weeks with both classroom instruction and on the ground work with IT. The program will also provide resume instruction, LinkedIn profile development, and culminates in a focused job fair.
Participants qualify with assessments around logic skills, basic math, and reading comprehension, after entering through the TANF or WIOA programs.
But what makes this unique? "What most people don't realize is there are often socioeconomic barriers to entry for many types of careers," said Foley. "Often the cost of taking a private class such as this one is prohibitive for those experiencing economic challenges, and they may not even know about the opportunities in these industries."
Participants in the class are paid wages for concurrent training and work experience activities while earning three industry-recognized certifications (A+, Network+, Security+). The path also gives the potential to earn $20-30 per hour once the ten-week training is finished, a sum that can achieve self-sufficiency for most participants.
The partnerships have the effect of eliminating barriers to entry in to the IT industry. Partnering with CompTIA allows Workforce to offer top notch training. Partnering with Jefferson County IT provides an internship workforce for IT and good experience for participants.
Collaboration is also in the funding of the program. Funding sources include WIOA/Workforce and the Colorado STEP/TANF* grant. WIOA funds from the Colorado Workforce Development Council were competitively awarded in July 2018 to support the facilitator and participant materials/fees costs. The CO STEP/TANF, WIOA (Youth, Adult, Dislocated Worker) and ESF* funds pay the wages.
By collaborating on the funding, the program enables participants to earn a stipend, gain training, achieve a certification credential, develop a LinkedIn profile and resume, gain actual experience, and likely be hired into a permanent position by the end of the life cycle of the program. Each funding source on its own would not have been able to fund all the components, but together they can.
An added bonus to the class is its diversity - the class includes 12 men and 5 women, and the age range runs from 18 to 67, as well as several ethnicities, and veterans.
"We are so excited about the program," said Foley. "Our efforts here are about getting to outcomes: getting people employed in living wage positions; achieving their self-sufficiency. We know this program can do this."
*WIOA is the Work Force Opportunity Investment Act acronym, which denotes a funding source used primarily by Workforce Centers to serve their customers. TANF is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (named Colorado Works in Colorado), another funding source serving individuals who receive support services through TANF. Youth programs are also a part of both funding streams. Several youth are participating in the program. The CO Step Grant is TANF funds supporting basic cash recipients in work-based learning activities managed and awarded by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. ESF stands for the Employment Support Fund administered by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.