Not long ago, Jess Pisasale was working two jobs, 80 hours a week, and was still living paycheck to paycheck.
Her college career had been cut short after a head injury forced her to give up the soccer scholarship that made it possible for her to attend.
“I was mentally drained and down on myself on how I would be able to make a career for myself to make my life better,” Pisasale said.
Her friend Ray Sims encouraged her to apply to the ITWorks program, a free 16-week accelerated IT course for underemployed and unemployed young people without college degrees. It required a big commitment — classes were from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week for the duration, and getting in was competitive, with assessments and (if you’re lucky) multiple interviews.
Pisasale was accepted for the Fall 2014 session, which she completed successfully. “ITWorks helped place me in a internship at Capital One,” she said. “My life has changed drastically.”
Started in Philadelphia by nonprofit Tech Impact in 2011, ITWorks launched in Delaware five years ago with the help of The United Way.
(In Philly, Tech Impact just doubled its office space by moving into a former coworking space.)
“It’s not a bootcamp,” said Jessica Mitchell, ITWorks Marketing and Program Manager. “It’s an accelerated certificate program. Our mission is to put people to work.”
The tech field not only needs people with specialized skills, it offers the kinds of salaries that can be hard to come by without a degree. Programs like ITWorks provide a win-win situation for both businesses and the community, as Denzel Gentle can verify.
Gentle graduated from the program in the spring of 2016, and now works for the City of Newark.
“ITWorks is a great program for anyone looking for that foot in the door,” he said. “For those who are less fortunate and can’t afford college, this is a great first step.”
The technologist stresses that it’s not just learning the skills that makes it valuable. “The directors and teachers care about the students in the program before, during and after,” he said. “It makes you feel like you have a whole support system behind you when you’re in the process of achieving your goals.”
Recruitment for the Spring 2018 session (which starts in February) goes into full swing in January and December, but it’s not too soon to start the application process. To qualify, you must be aged 18-26 with a high school diploma or GED, have an interest in technology and the ability to commit to the course schedule.
ITWorks is currently seeking people to volunteer one hour per week as mentors, host a one-time Friday “soft skills” session or host a one-hour “Lunch & Learn” session. The program is also always looking for companies to participate in the five-week minimum internship program.-30-
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