Main image of article IT Apprentice Program Seeks Employer Companies
The Creating IT Futures Foundation, an offshoot of the IT industry association CompTIA, is lining up employers to volunteer for its IT-Ready Apprentice Program. It plans to train people — whether they be unemployed or part of a population underrepresented in IT, such as women or minorities — for entry-level IT work, then place them in a six-month internship where they gain work experience. The apprentices will earn $15 an hour, and employers are asked to line up a mentor for the apprentice who is not his or her supervisor. The foundation also is rounding up industry pros to serve as online mentors. Though the foundation announced in November that it would be launching the program in five cities this year, it since has decided to focus on getting it right this year in just two: Cincinnati and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It plans to train and place 25 apprentices in each. Eric Larson, the foundation's director of external relations, told me the apprentices will come to the employers with CompTIA's basic A+ certification and possibly a second certification as well from an eight-week training program.  Their training also will deal with "soft skills" such as communication and conflict resolution to help them be job-ready when they show up. That's been lacking in previous such training efforts, employers have said. Larson said:
"This is not like a college internship. They need to have meaningful work for internal and external customers to help build their confidence. And it needs to be meaningful work for the company... Ideally they will be doing the work of a full-time, entry-level employee."
The foundation is pretty open as to the type of employer:
"We're looking for anybody with an IT department or an IT services provider of some kind.  ...So far we've talked to companies that hire thousands [in help desk and call center technical support] on down to those that employ less than 10."
One potential employer for the program was a guy in Cincinnati who has five employees. His company does networking and other IT work for small businesses, Larson said. That employer hopes to find the apprentice will make a good hire at the end of the apprenticeship. The foundation hopes to have the employers lined up by the end of February, spend March and April screening applicants, May and June conducting training and begin the apprenticeships in July. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and at least a 10th-grade reading level, he said. The efforts this year will be experimental to develop a "packaged" program that can scale to other cities. Though other organizations, such as YearUp and Per Scholas attempt something similar, the foundation's program will not be limited to young people or to inner-city applicants, Larson said. It plans to link up with partners, where appropriate, to develop a solution to close the gap in skills and available jobs. Want to get involved? Here's how.