How Companies Find their Next Star Tech Employees

By Michelle Lange

As the national director of career services at CompTIA Tech Career Academy, Kathy Brennan helps companies connect with graduates looking for their first jobs in technology. “Initially it isn’t that difficult to get the appointment with the employer,” said Brennan, who is an expert in recruitment, assessment and development of the students in CompTIA Tech. “We all want to help people.”

IT managers like the idea that they can bring in an apprentice, intern or even a full-time hire who has completed eight weeks of intense IT study and earned a CompTIA A+ certification.

Getting a commitment from the employer is still a stretch until Brennan pulls out her secret weapon: Meeting the students themselves. Once employers meet the candidates and get a sense of their gratitude, good attitude and IT skills, the idea of a partnership becomes a reality.

“When you really seal the deal is when they get to meet the student,” Brennan said. “It’s the graduates of our program who keep it going. They over-perform on the job in most instances.”


Why Employers Partner with CompTIA Tech

Graduates of CompTIA Tech Career Academy have completed eight weeks of IT study and earned CompTIA A+ certification. They’re ready to start working in the industry and deepening their IT skills with hands-on work. If your company can offer an entry-level IT position, consider hiring CompTIA Tech alumni.

“We are very honest with everybody that applies, the majority of the people start out on a help desk,” Brennan said. Even if a graduate has previous technology experience, most employers like to build an educational foundation with experience on the help desk. It gives the new hire a chance to know the company and the company gets a chance to see this person in action. “That is the main entry point,” she added.

Through the work experience on the helpdesk, CompTIA Tech graduates get a chance to explore technology and find out where they excel. The career services staff is there to make a successful match for graduates and employers. CompTIA Tech, like any other reputable educational institution, cannot guarantee placement for its graduates, but the staff works with each graduate to get them ready for interviews and helping them meet employers.

 “We are here to open that door for you. Once graduates get in, employers help navigate that next path, whether you want to learn more about the network operation center or go toward cybersecurity or work as a systems analyst,” Brennan said. “That’s what so wonderful about a technology career; it’s so open-ended.”


Career Switchers Finding New Career Success

People from all different walks of life get into technology through CompTIA Tech, like being an administrative assistant, hairdresser or bartender. Brennan realized early on that it’s the people from all these unique backgrounds who are over performing on the job and impressing the companies that hire them.

Back when SecureConnect was known as TrustWave, Brennan brought the idea to her connection Todd Mortensen and asked what he thought. “They were like, ‘Sounds like a great program, we’ll look at hiring one person.’ When they finally got to meet somebody they called me a week later and said, ‘Kathy, is there anyone else from that class? This person is incredible.’”

People of all ages graduate from the program, many are in their mid-30s and looking for a way to get into the technology field. Many students are changing careers, looking for new opportunities and eager to make a contribution. “It’s their attitude; they’re so thankful for the opportunity,” Brennan said.

And not everybody is brand new to technology. Some people are naturals and have been acting like IT support for their family and friends for years. “Some people have networking systems set up their own home,” Brennan added.


HealthPartners Stepping Up to the Plate

Brennan remembers being nervous when she approached Darel Gustafson, Director of Information Security for HealthPartners, about bringing in an intern from the CompTIA Tech Career Academy. Brennan knew the idea was good, but it was early on in the program and they hadn’t proven out the model. At the time, the academy was still a part of Creating IT Futures, a nonprofit with the goal to help unemployed or underemployed people find a path into technology. They needed to find companies willing to take a risk on six months of hiring an unknown person who had just completed the intense IT training of IT-Ready.

Brennan gave the pitch: She would present him with a few graduates who had earned their CompTIA A+ certification if HealthPartners would agree to a six-month apprenticeship for one of those students.

“All we’re asking is for a six-month apprenticeship,” Brennan remembers telling him. “If there’s a full-time opening, you have the opportunity to bring them on full time. If not, they have CompTIA A+ certification, six months of experience and a reference in the supervisor and they can go apply to another job.”

Brennan knew the stakes were high and took a long breath before hearing Gustafson’s answer. “Darrel said, ‘Okay, Kathy, we will bring on somebody for six months, but I can’t guarantee there will be a full-time opening. People tend not to leave this organization,’” Brennan remembers. 

Turns out HealthPartners was very impressed with their first experience partnering with Creating IT Futures. “Within a month as a temporary apprentice, that person was recognized as Employee of the Month. They’ve gone on to receive five promotions and is now the senior principal analyst,” Brennan said. “It all started with that CompTIA A+ certification.”

Over the years the Twin Cities company expanded and HealthPartners has added new positions thanks to that initial meeting with Creating IT Futures. “That was in 2012,” Brennan said. “Since then Health Partners has hired more than 30 of our graduates.”


How to Be an Employer Partner

Lance Collins at U-Haul in Phoenix has hired a number of CompTIA Tech Career Academy graduates to run his help desk. “The IT-Ready program sets up the individuals with the troubleshooting mindset and technical experience to succeed at U-Haul,” he said.

U-Haul looks for motivated individuals who want to take pride in their work and are wanting to learn, and the CompTIA Tech Career Academy graduates match those needs. Reach out if your company can offer an IT position to a CompTIA Tech Career Academy graduate.

“When we go to employers, we’re trying to help the community,” Brennan said. “In turn, we’re also helping you. We’re vetting these people, putting them through a series of different tests.”

Companies give students their first chance at a job and see them quickly rise to the occasion.

“The partners we work with don’t want people who are staying on the helpdesk forever,” Brennan said. “They want people who want to progress, and that’s the story of our students.”

Learn more about how to connect to a recent CompTIA Tech Career Academy graduate or one of our alumni.


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