Starting in 2018, JFF supported the scaling of the Google IT Support Professional Certificate initiative, a training program in which participants earn a new credential designed by Google to prepare people with no previous IT training or work experience for high-demand roles in IT support in less than six months. JFF helped more than 100 colleges and 25 nonprofits implement the certificate program. In addition, JFF provided technical assistance and conducted an evaluation to understand the impact of this initiative and to identify effective practices of both college and nonprofit providers.
While the personas shared in this report are drawn directly from our work on the Google IT Support Professional Certificate initiative, they also provide broader insights into the characteristics of both learners and training models that are likely to be successful in other short-term IT credentialing programs, especially those that are offered in an online-only or hybrid context.
What types of learners thrive in this program? Through a cluster analysis, we found that five personas—types of people—are successful in this program. Armed with an understanding of who’s likely to succeed in the program, colleges and nonprofits can select and support participants effectively and in a manner that best positions the learners for long-term success in an IT career.
We offer an overview of the personas below. You can download the full report for a deeper look.
Meet the Learners
Self-Starter With IT Skills
- James is 28 years old and a first-generation American.
- He has experience as an IT generalist at several small businesses; he does not have a college degree.
Build a Stackable Credential
- James completes the Google Certificate within a standalone, noncredit program while working full time.
Land a Role at a Large Company
- The Certificate has made the college experience accessible for James. He is focused on parlaying his new skills into a job at a major company.
Building Programs to Support Career Advancers
- Build connections to local IT employers. Use job placement services, work-based learning, or mentorship opportunities to jump-start completers’ IT careers.
- Help learners pursue other well-recognized, stackable credentials. Complement the Certificate with credentials such as the CompTIA A+ Certification, which JFF research has shown to be a “door opener” for the IT field.
- Provide navigation support for next steps in education and employment. Learners who want to pursue a postsecondary degree need to understand degree on-ramps, including stackable credentials. They also need information about how their skills—current and newly acquired—qualify them for in-demand job openings and specific roles within the IT field.
Learn more about learners like James and how to support them by downloading the full report!
Recent High School Graduate New to IT
- Stephanie is a 19-year-old who is currently working in retail. Her hours have been reduced because of the pandemic, and she is looking for a longer-term career path.
- She is new to IT but is an active mobile user and has a talent for troubleshooting cash register issues at her store.
Build Foundational IT Skills
- Stephanie completes the Google Certificate in an online program through a community center that offers it free of charge.
Translate the Certificate Into a Pathway
- The Certificate helped Stephanie develop knowledge of IT. She is working to land a job in IT support or move on to the more advanced CompTIA A+ Certification.
Building Programs to Support Opportunity Seekers
- Build IT skills and baseline skills. Ensure that programs intentionally complement the Google curriculum with activities designed to foster the development of basic skills like collaboration, communication, and problem solving.
- Focus on intensive navigation support. Ensure that participants gain exposure to the range of pathways available in the IT sector and the training required for various roles. When possible, build career planning directly into the program so that learners have concrete next steps after completion.
- Create cohort-based experiences to support retention. Learners with barriers may struggle as they navigate complex material in a new field. Creating learner communities and fostering peer connections are effective ways to build support that helps ensure persistence and completion.
Learn more about learners like Stephanie and how to support them by downloading the full report!
New Immigrant and Experienced IT Professional
- Amir is a 38-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who worked in IT in his home country for several years and is very comfortable using technology.
- He likes to keep his content knowledge current and has completed several online courses.
Advance IT Knowledge
- Amir sees that a local community-based organization is offering the Google Certificate and enrolls right away.
Demonstrate Current Skills and Knowledge
- He completes the Certificate quickly and immediately updates his resume and LinkedIn profile. While Amir is happy in his current IT role, he’s always open to new challenges and would like to increase his salary.
Building Programs to Support Skilled Professionals
- Provide Flexibility and Encourage Acceleration. Give these learners the flexibility to effectively balance the program with full-time work. Enable learners who are working professionals to move through the content at an accelerated pace—since they are already familiar with many of the key topics and skills.
- Take Advantage of Their Content Knowledge and Experience. When possible, provide opportunities for these learners to serve as mentors and subject matter experts for other participants in the program. With their knowledge of the IT field, they can share valuable insights with peers and be useful aides to instructors.
- Customize Supports. Learners with work experience may still benefit from some targeted supports—such as supplemental English instruction, interviewing tips, or more insight into potential IT career pathways. Enable these learners to take advantage of specific supports aligned with their needs.
Learn more about learners like Amir and how to support them by downloading the full report!
- Jesse is 23 and has been working for more than seven years. He has a full-time job as a customer service representative—which enables him to support his young family—but he feels stuck in his career.
- He doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree, but he does have intermediate tech skills and wants to build on this foundation to find a role in IT.
Strengthen IT Skills
- Jesse doesn’t have the time or resources to attend college, but when he sees that a local nonprofit is offering the Google Certificate, he thinks it would be a great fit and is encouraged by the program’s ties to the Google brand.
Find a Help Desk Role
- Jesse is looking for a help desk job that would enable him to combine his customer service skills with the IT knowledge he gained in the Certificate program.
Building Programs to Support Skill Seekers
- Strengthen Basic Literacy and Numeracy. Ensure that learners who don’t have college experience can build foundational skills as they gain IT-specific knowledge and competencies.
- Provide Stipends or “Learn and Earn” Opportunities. Workers who are hoping to change careers may need to reduce their hours or leave their current jobs altogether to focus on building new skills. Providing stipends or offering the Certificate as part of a “learn and earn” program can help them maintain financial stability and make it possible to stay in the course until they finish.
- Focus on Placement Support. Ensure that participants can draw on their prior work experience and help them prepare to navigate the job search process by offering mock interview and resume development workshops, and by sharing leads on potential job opportunities.
Learn more about learners like Jesse and how to support them by downloading the full report!
Experienced Professional With Some College
- Maria started college in her 20s but had to step back to raise her family. She has worked since she was in high school, mainly in office settings.
- Now 46, she works part time as a bookkeeper and recently re-enrolled in her local community college.
Build IT Skills, With a Focus on Business
- Maria encounters the Google Certificate in one of her first IT courses. She appreciates the accessible, energizing material and the voices of actual IT professionals, some of whom have backgrounds similar to hers.
Complete Her Associate Degree
- Maria is focused on finishing her degree but is excited that she was able to complete the Google Certificate in one semester and has already added it to her resume.
Building Programs to Support Degree Seekers
- Build Confidence and a Growth Mindset. Starting a training program in a technical field can be difficult, especially for learners who are returning after a hiatus from school. Providers can help these learners build confidence and better navigate the college environment if they help them focus on growth and connect the subjects they’re studying to knowledge they already have.
- Focus on Early Intervention and Support. Even highly motivated learners can struggle; providers should meet with degree seekers regularly to discuss the coursework and the progress they’re making, so they’re able to offer timely support if challenges arise. This can help ensure that minor academic difficulties do not impede progress toward a degree.
- Highlight Opportunities for Stackable Credentials. Providers should offer learners opportunities to “stack” credentials as they work toward completing their degrees. This enables them to strengthen their subject-area knowledge and build their resumes.
Learn more about learners like Maria and how to support them by downloading the full report!
These personas were developed through a cluster analysis of 1,057 learners who had completed surveys conducted by JFF from 2019 through 2020. Five clusters emerged and were analyzed by demographic and program participation features to create the descriptions of each persona.
This work was made possible with the generous support of Google.org.