Connecting Learners to Tech Careers: JFF’s Rapid IT Training and Employment Initiative
Work-based learning and wraparound supports aim to bring more underrepresented workers into the IT field.
Virgilio Espinal has always enjoyed working with technology. As a security guard at a retirement home, he often helped residents connect to Wi-Fi and troubleshoot difficulties with their computers. However, it wasn’t until Espinal was referred to the Rapid IT Training and Employment Initiative (RITEI) offered by JEVS Human Services in Philadelphia that he started to see his knack for technology as a potential career.
As a RITEI learner, Espinal earned CompTIA’s A+ Certification, the most in-demand certification for IT support roles per the most recent data obtained from Labor Insight, a real-time labor market information tool. Now, he’s working as a paid apprentice in the field.
IT support is a high-demand field that has only grown with the rise of remote work. The industry counted more than 316,000 job postings nationwide in 2021, representing a 21% increase from the previous year. The typical salary for IT support roles is around $50,000 per year, according to data from Lightcast, a labor market analytics firm formerly known as Emsi Burning Glass, and those jobs have high career-advancement potential.
Despite this growth and opportunity, the current IT support workforce—like the overall tech workforce—doesn’t reflect the diversity of the U.S. population. According to Lightcast, currently, only 11% of IT support specialists are Black, and 11% are Hispanic or Latinx. However, these demographic groups account for 13% and 18% of the U.S. workforce, respectively.
Virgilio Espinal, IT Generalist, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
CompTIA has allowed me to pursue and further develop my professional career. As an immigrant, there’s nothing more difficult than trying to achieve the so-called ‘American Dream’ [but] I was able to get . . . a position in one of the most prestigious companies in the United States.
Jobs for the Future (JFF) launched the RITEI program with a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2021 to address this discrepancy. This initiative’s mission is to train unemployed and underemployed workers, especially men who are Black, Latinx, or Indigenous and women of all backgrounds, for tech roles. To achieve that goal, RITEI forged a partnership with CompTIA, an IT trade association whose services include tech training and education programs.
In partnership with RITEI, CompTIA debuted an online learning tool it calls the Mentored Learning Platform, which enables RITEI learners to complete the A+ certification in about 16 weeks. The platform pairs cohort-based instruction with support from a live mentor who provides on-demand tutoring and support to help participants master the content.
Gaining Skills and Confidence
Espinal studied for the CompTIA certification on the mobile Canvas app using his phone, often during breaks at work. He also worked with the team at JEVS and a CompTIA mentor to ensure that he was prepared for the exams. In the summer of 2022, he successfully passed both certification exams and secured an apprenticeship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where he is now an IT generalist. As he gains experience in that role, he’s becoming more confident in his skills and learning more about IT processes and customer service.
“CompTIA has allowed me to pursue and further develop my professional career,” says Espinal. “As an immigrant, there’s nothing more difficult than trying to achieve the so-called ‘American Dream.’ The difficulties many of our families encounter drift us apart from working toward it, weighing the dream down altogether. Through the CertMaster Learn program, I was able to get not only my first IT certificate, but also a position in one of the most prestigious companies in the United States.”
As Espinal launches the next chapter of his career, JFF’s RITEI sites are working to train a total of 1,800 people by 2025 to enable more learners like Espinal to secure high-demand roles in technology. At least 25% of RITEI learners will participate in work-based learning opportunities such as apprenticeships. JEVS Human Services is one of five education and training sites across the country that offer RITEI programming. The others are Metro Community College in Omaha, Redemption Bridge in Dallas, the Colorado Community College System, and TechSF in San Francisco. They all combine instruction with wraparound supports such as child care and transportation services and career and academic counseling, and they connect learners to work-based learning opportunities for hands-on training.
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