File this under creative approaches to cultivating new IT talent.
Columbia-based IT consulting firm Sofiac hosts free Software Development Working Groups, in which members of their team organize skill development Saturday events for small groups over seven-week periods. They also host a similar program in system administration.
Between the two, more than 150 people have gone through the program in the last two years, said spokeswoman Lauren Anderson.
“We do this to help sharpen the skills of students and IT professionals through one-on-one teaching of these specialized topics,” said Anderson. Though the groups first launched back in 2007, they’ve continued to evolve and with a heightened IT hiring crunch, the importance has grown too.
The program has a set curriculum and take-home exercises but the real goal is the interactive, collaborative project work on open source projects, said Anderson. Their classes do work in areas like Linux and revision control.
High school students and established professionals have participated but the focus is on existing college students, hoping to prepare them for professional internships and a pathway to IT jobs in the Baltimore region — Sofiac has hired 16 of its class members, more than 20 have gotten jobs with partner companies, in addition to others.
Though based in Howard County, Sofiac, which was founded in 2003 by Brian Walsh, has hosted the classes elsewhere in the region too, having started in Catonsville and now hosting in Hanover. Now a 10-person company, their work this fall earned them a Governor’s Service Award, an honor that highlights volunteer efforts.