Memphis, Tenn. — City of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr., and Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey E. Hopson II congratulated the graduates of a new summer "Earn and Learn" training program to help young adults learn information technology (IT) skills. The Creating IT Futures Foundation, through its IT Futures Labs division, and the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) of Memphis collaborated on the program, made possible by a State of Tennessee grant, and supportive of the White House’s TechHire Initiative.
Earlier this year, WIN Executive Director Kevin Woods wanted to launch a summer “Earn and Learn” experience that focused on information technology. With the collaboration between WIN and Creating IT Futures, the experience began in June as an eight-week course, giving students the proper training to pass vendor-neutral IT certifications and work in the field, imaging more than 6,000 computers for the Shelby County School District, which includes the City of Memphis. Students earned 13 dollars per hour during the program – well above the minimum wage – and many also took advantage of extra classroom time that was unpaid.
Nineteen students graduated last week with 16 of them earning CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification. Four students earned CompTIA A+ certification as well. About half of the original 23 high school senior and college freshman students who began the program were women and 90 percent were African American, demographics that are traditionally under-represented in the IT field.
During the graduation, Mayor Wharton thanked the organizers and sponsors for a “pioneering program that meets a real and confounding need.” He told the students, “We’re one of 21 cities within the White House’s TechHire Initiative. For you, our graduates, and your success, this program was well worth it. Whatever you’re going into, you’ll need to know technology. It’s critical for you to have the skills that you developed here.”
Mayor Luttrell added, “Programs like this show the necessity for collaboration that aligns the needs of our community with the priorities of our education system. The challenges that Memphis and Shelby County face are not unique to us. You’ll find the same issues across America. But the distinction of progressive cities are programs like this one where we can highlight what are youth are doing, the progress they’re making, and the great strides of our education system.”
In expressing his praise for the graduates, Superintendent Hopson remarked, “Our goal at Shelby County Schools is that our students are college or career ready.”
The Shelby County School System provided facilities and on-the-job learning, and Creating IT Futures donated the instructor services of A Critical Path.
“Not all of the graduates will go into IT as a career, but because they now know how computers work and are comfortable with technology, the program helped them become technologists and they can use their IT skills to get further ahead no matter where their future career paths lead,” said Eric Larson, director of IT Futures Labs for Creating IT Futures Foundation.
The program also allowed workforce training groups and educators to see what motivated the students and how they learn in an earn-and-learn model, as well as a blended learning format.
“This was a unique opportunity to provide young adults marketable skills in critical demand by employers,” said Alan A. Gumbel, WIN’s youth services manager. “We hope to expand and replicate this model of learning across our target industries.”
Steve Bargiacchi, CEO of ProTech Systems Inc. in Memphis, said graduates also may be recruited for a school-year program for youth ages 16 to 21 which is being developed by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis.
“Memphis is becoming a tech hub in the Southeast and already has many companies in need of local workers with strong IT skills,” said Bargiacchi. “Programs like ‘Earn and Learn’ build on what the high schools and colleges are doing to prepare students for the IT workplace, and the business community is eager to continue to help develop these young workers for great careers.”
About the Workforce Investment Network (WIN)
The Workforce Investment Network (WIN) is a community resource that prepares job seekers for jobs and helps connect them with employment opportunities in Memphis, Shelby County, and Fayette County, TN. WIN identifies and pre-screens qualified talent for local businesses, and in some instances provides grants to employers to help defray the cost of training their workforce. WIN provides job seekers with a variety of services, such as assessments, resume development, job search assistance, and when a job seeker is suitable and eligible we help fund the job skills training needed to find and keep a good job. Learn more at WorkforceInvestmentNetwork.com.
About the Creating IT Futures Foundation and IT Futures Labs
Founded in 1998 as the philanthropic arm of CompTIA, the Creating IT Futures Foundation is a 501(c) (3) charity with the mission of helping populations that are under-represented in IT and individuals who are lacking in opportunity to prepare for, secure, and be successful in IT careers. The foundation pilots new programs through its IT Futures Labs initiative. Learn more at CreatingITFutures.org.