Creating a path to IT jobs for those facing significant barriers

The City of Minneapolis has officially recognized April as its inaugural “tech month” with a series of events aimed at strengthening partnerships between employers, training outfits, and public partners and making opportunities in the tech sector accessible to all residents.


In a metro-wide initiative that aims to diversify the population of tech workers, JFCS’ IT Pathways program is ‘the glue that holds the program together’


“Kirsten” had been working a couple low-wage part-time jobs when she decided to enroll in The Software Guild’s coding boot camp, which teaches people without any tech experience fundamental skills needed for IT jobs. She held a bachelor’s degree in biology and was working towards her Ph.D in entomology, but was unable to secure employment that met her qualifications due to a criminal background. She had also dealt with mental health issues.


The Software Guild partners with JFCS’ IT Pathways Career Training program, which connects individuals with the needed resources to prepare for success in IT jobs. In Kirsten’s case, JFCS Employment Counselor Marah Johnson provided her both career coaching services, as well as resources for people with criminal backgrounds seeking employment.


Kirsten said the support from JFCS’ IT Pathways program gave her more confidence that the job search for her this time would be different – and she was right. She found employment in the IT field and has been successful in her new career. “It’s a testament to the great work the JFCS counselors do with their students to make sure they have the resources they need to be successful,” said Kipp Graham, Employer Network Manager for The Software Guild.


Bringing diversity to the tech field


Many of the clients in our IT Pathways program come from backgrounds that are under-represented in IT jobs. In 2018, we served 172 people in the program. The average starting wage for participants was $24.61/hr –  60 percent were people of color, and 36 percent were women.


Joshua Veely, Operations Manager for The Software Guild, praised JFCS for diversifying the population of students at his training program and for the employers who hire from it. “They’ve helped bring in women and minorities to a tech industry that is traditionally lacking in both,” he said.


Kirsten is just one of many success stories for JFCS’ IT Pathways program, which has several other partner organizations, in addition to The Software Guild. MSP TechHire, an initiative of the city of Minneapolis, has a mission to close the workforce skills gap in the high-tech economy by building a path for diverse workers to access training, support and tech jobs across the greater Minneapolis region.


Tammy Dickinson, Career Pathways Manager for the City of Minneapolis, said JFCS is a key partner in the work of MSP TechHire and is helping to increase the number of skilled IT workers in Minneapolis. “The JFCS staff members that I work with are so talented and dedicated,” she said. “They offer quality service to the students from the initial intake and screening, as well as during training, and after graduation. I believe JFCS is the glue that holds the program together.”


Partnership with Creating IT Futures and Prime Digital Academy


Another of our partners is Creating IT Futures, a non-profit organization that works to create on-ramps for more people to prepare for, secure and succeed in IT careers. Sue Wallace, Executive Director of its National Workforce Solutions division, said that JFCS’ staff is easy to work with and provides excellent support for Creating IT Futures’ students. JFCS partners with it on grant applications to create holistic resources for people, who with our combined training and support, are able to fulfill their full career potential. “Creating IT Futures likes working with JFCS for a multitude of reasons,” Wallace said. “I just trust JFCS to do what they say they are going to do at the highest level of quality and professionalism.”


“Jeremiah” is a military veteran who JFCS referred to the Creating IT Futures IT-Ready program. He was dealing with financial problems related to an identity theft. While he was in the training program, JFCS was able to provide funds to help him pay his utility bills. Within a couple weeks of graduating from IT-Ready, he started working as a technical analyst at a networking company.


JFCS Employment Counselor Marah Johnson works with clients in the IT Pathways program.

Mark Hurlburt, President and Co-Founder of Prime Digital Academy – another JFCS partner – said our Career Services staff has consistently gone above and beyond in supporting Prime students. “Their care and attention have allowed people working diligently to transition their careers to devote their whole selves to that prospect,” he said. “Whether it’s coaching and support, vocational guidance or just a bag of groceries when things are tight, JFCS has been there to save the day.”


“Jane,” a student in one of Prime’s earliest cohorts had a major life transition during the program that disrupted her living situation and threatened her ability to stay focused on her studies. She was a top student in the class, but was having trouble making ends meet to stay afloat day to day.


“Her counselors at JFCS were there with bus passes, bags of groceries and anything else she needed to complete the program,” Hurlburt said. “With that support, she was able to finish strong and that momentum carried her into a career that she loves.”


For more information on JFCS’ IT Pathways program, call 952-546-0616 or click here.