A Plug For The Talent Drain: New Program Gives College-Free Path Into IT


The program's lessons will be based on curriculum already developed by other companies, such as Cisco's certification program or Microsoft's Code Academy, and compiled through Mozilla Backpack. Most of the work will be done through those portals, but human teachers will also be available to motivate students and help them when they get stuck.

"We don't want to reinvent wheels that aren't broken," Valley Technology Outreach's Bean said.

While 60 percent of the learning will be technical-related, Bean said the remaining 40 percent will be focused on what he calls "soft skills." Bean said students will learn how to write a resume, interview and dress professionally, as well as learning skills like teamwork and how to write a business email. Bean said he designed the program this way after his own experience hiring employees.

"Just having warm bodies, even the ones who know tech skills, isn't enough," Bean said.

The Springfield-area graduates could also use the extra income boost, Bean said. The average income per capita for the city is just more than $18,000, markedly less than the state's average of more than $35,000 per capita, according to U.S. Census data. The average college graduate with a computer science degree in the U.S. was paid more than $60,000 in 2012, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

"It's kind of the rising tide [lifts] all ships. ... You're going to have an effect where it's going to help [the IT industry] in so many ways that it's a good investment of my time if it pays off and I believe very confidently that it will," Bean said.

The program's database will also work in reverse -- providing the program with data on what employers are looking for, so that students spend their time only learning exactly what is needed and not wasting their time. Or, if a company is looking for a student with, for example, 10 specific badges, those who fall just short can shift their efforts to fill the requirements and get hired.

For now, the program will kick off next summer with a pilot program of 25 handpicked students recommended by local community groups. The students will start learning the summer before their senior year and continue through the year. The pilot program is designed to iron out the kinks and get the community excited about the program, Bean said.

The program will eventually pay for itself through a 10 to 15 percent commission it will receive from organizations that hire the students, similar to a headhunter's fee. However, Bean said companies are so eager for the talent that they said they would even pay a higher rate, though he said he wants to keep it low so companies won't have any reason to hesitate before taking qualified graduates on board.

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