Partnering to Get Grads into Jobs

By Amy Eernisse-Liang

Since the beginning of our IT-Ready Technical Support program in 2012, TEKsystems, a leading IT services company in North America, has been an invaluable partner to Creating IT Futures and now to CompTIA Tech Career Academy, as the Academy took over the IT-Ready program this year. They’ve supported us in multiple cities and partnered with us to help dozens of our students get their start in IT careers across the nation. But, for this blog post, we focus on one city and a few stories in the midst of the global pandemic.

During an unprecedented time in history, while nationwide unemployment rates are high and morale is low, CompTIA Tech students in Portland, Oregon, are still landing jobs – important jobs and ones that will set them up for meaningful and sustainable careers.

Since the pandemic began, CompTIA Tech in a custom training program with Worksystems, Portland’s local workforce board, has continued to train students in the Portland Metro area, virtually, and prepare them for IT careers. Although the local IT job scene dipped a bit those first couple of months, things began to pick-up quickly and students started landing jobs with CompTIA Tech’s employer partners.

However, the real hero in this story, besides the students who tirelessly and passionately forged through seven hours of virtual IT training for eight weeks, is the TEKsystems crew in Portland. Creating IT Futures and now CompTIA Tech have been working with their crew since our pilot programs in 2017, and of our 250+ alumni in Portland, they’ve hired more students than any other local employer partner – 50+ students over the past three years. And, more than 20 percent of those hires happened during the pandemic.


Graduates Are Doing Crucial Work in the Pandemic

Not only are the students getting their first IT gigs, but they are truly doing, “good” and crucial work during the pandemic in places like Providence Health, Portland Public Schools (PPS), Legacy Health and Lam Research.

As the division lead for TEKsystems Dynamic Workplace Services in Portland, Rick Benevento speaks to the success of their partnership with our program and students: “We’ve partnered with Creating IT Futures (and now CompTIA Tech) in Portland for the past 3+ years with great success. Working with local staff and students after graduation is a winning combination for the student, TEKsystems, and TEKsystems’s clients. The majority of students we engage with are motivated and driven to start their IT careers. This is where we step in. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of support roles from our healthcare customers, and these graduating students have been a perfect match for them.”

Benevento also reiterated the importance of contract work for his customers of Legacy Health and Portland Public Schools. “At Legacy Health, the customer told me that our contractors have been a crucial part of supporting the first responders with their IT issues. This team effort has been greatly appreciated and recognized by Legacy leadership,” said Benevento.

“At Portland Public Schools, these graduating students have been instrumental in supporting parents and students with their IT issues while having online classes during the pandemic. This new way of learning has really pushed IT to support differently and we are lucky to have found some solid students to support this district,” added Benevento.


Grads Are Finding Meaningful Tech Work

Thomas “Tommy” Bakr Childers, a former cook whose work dramatically decreased due to COVID-19, jumped on the opportunity to retrain for an IT career. He breezed through the program, passed his CompTIA A+ certification with flying colors and quickly was offered a position with TEKsystems to work a contract at PPS as a Service Desk 1 technician on its helpdesk. Childers is now part of the first-level team that troubleshoots any technical issues that school administrators, counselors, students and their families encounter. It’s an especially interesting and busy time for the IT team as all the PPS students are taking their classes remotely. Much of Childers’ work revolves around helping solve problems students and their families experience at home with their Zoom connections.

Thanks to his CompTIA Tech classes and his own experience using Zoom and watching his instructor troubleshoot problems, Childers is seen by his team as the Zoom master at PPS. And he has a lot of repeat customers who have been grateful for his support when their technology isn’t working properly.

Childers also really enjoys the educational aspect of his work as he has many opportunities to educate his customers on “how to” use their technology and not encounter repeat situations. He loves that PPS is more of a community-based organization and it’s not a corporate environment. Ultimately, he feels CompTIA Tech opened up a direct entryway into a new career.

Another CompTIA Tech alum, Andy Le, also lost his service industry job after COVID-19 hit, which allowed him to focus on his education. He always wanted to get into the IT industry. However, he wasn’t sure what steps to take until he received information on the program from his career coach with WorkSource.

Le also breezed through the class and was one of the first students to pass his CompTIA A+ certification, and a week after completion, he was offered a position through TEKystems as a helpdesk technician at Providence Health where he assists doctors, nurses and other hospital staff with anything related to the technology they use daily.

They are open 24/7 and they need technology to do their work. Le is in the frontline making sure there is no “down-time”, which is detrimental to their work and could be a matter of life vs. death in a hospital setting. And due to everything that is going on in the world, and especially with COVID-19, he encounters a lot of people who are stressed out or frustrated. Le believes his job is to make their lives easier since they have “so much on their plate”, and his team does their best to ensure medical staff can do their work seamlessly.

Le says, “Although this is a new career field for me, I feel that TechRise/WorkSource Portland Metro, Creating IT Futures, and TEKsystems really prepared me for this real-world experience and gave me the confidence to pursue my career goals and get onto a completely new career path that I’ve been interested in for years, and all during the pandemic.”

Hope Petersen, a transplant from Austin, TX, and a former aspiring publisher, also joined Le on the front lines of IT support at Providence Health. Her initial dream was to become a publisher and after two long years in New York City, she was able to get her shot in the industry for very low pay. But it only lasted six months, and was a terrible, disheartening, “consumed her alive” type of experience, which made her realize publishing may not be the best industry for her.

After Petersen moved to Portland, she worked odd and temp jobs, mostly in the administrative realm, but these experiences made her feel a bit “down-in-the-dumps,” and it was especially difficult in-the-midst of COVID-19. At this point, she realized she needed a career change and learned about our IT-Ready program through WorkSource.

Petersen was able to get through the class with ease, pass her CompTIA A+ certification soon after classes ended, and land a job quickly, despite the pandemic. She says, “I really enjoyed being in the CompTIA A+ class. It was my first-time using Zoom to attend a class, and it was fun meeting virtually every day. I learned a lot from the instructor, and having his expertise helped me land my first help desk job, thanks to TEKsystems.”

She also mentioned she wasn’t used to employers reaching out to her. She called her experience with CompTIA Tech “surreal in comparison with publishing where it was almost impossible to be seen.”


TEKsystems Crew Makes All the Difference

Childers, Le, Petersen and dozens of other graduates thank TEKsystems’ IT recruitment team Moi Diaz, Sam Meyers, Brandon Norby and Camille Scottaline, whose initial interactions and continued support “on the job” has made all the difference in their new tech careers.

Diaz noted, “My experience with the program has been very positive. Through the pandemic and high numbers of unemployment within this industry, TEKsystems has been able to leverage our partnership with Providence Health and Services to help students get their foot in the door with a top healthcare provider in the country and help students launch their IT careers! Overall, it’s always a pleasure working with the staff of the program and being able to make a difference in the career of the students.”

“It has been great to see this program and its reputation grow within the Portland market. Students have been great to work with and have come out excited and eager to learn more, which has left a lasting impression with the companies we work with,” said Norby.

“Specifically, during these tough pandemic times, staff have made the transition to virtual classes smooth while still making sure students are set up for success. Even in this challenging year, students have come out of this program prepared to start their IT careers, and we have been fortunate enough to still have a lot of success helping students start and grow their careers within IT. I am looking forward to continuing our partnership in the New Year,” added Norby.

Tech employers in Portland and throughout the U.S. can check out online how to get involved with our graduates. Their business and tech industry expertise will enhance the impact we can have on each of our students. Tell your tech career story to a classroom, participate in speed networking, become a mentor, or hire a graduate.


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