Good news and good works are going on in the IT channel and the tech industry, most often behind the scenes. Not for Profit is a new ChannelPro column highlighting volunteerism, charitable and philanthropic endeavors, outreach in the areas of diversity and inclusion, and other ways the channel is paying it forward.
It’s no secret the technology industry is looking for ways to increase the pipeline of skilled workers. Fortunately, vendors, industry groups, and IT professionals are stepping up in ways both big and small with efforts that not only help to develop skilled workers, but also provide paths to employment for individuals who might not otherwise think they are a good fit for tech.
For Lisa Shorr (pictured), owner and vice president of marketing at Secure Future Tech Solutions, a managed services provider in Warwick, R.I. (and a ChannelPro contributor), becoming a mentor with the P-TECH program in Providence, was a way to share her skills and give back to the community.
P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) was launched in September 2011 in Brooklyn, N.Y., through the partnership among the New York City Department of Education, The City University of New York, New York City College of Technology, and IBM Corporation. To date, there are about 100 P-TECH programs nationwide, some connected to IBM and others not. Each program has a dedicated high school, university alliance, and industry partnerships. In a P-TECH 9-14 school, students earn a high school diploma, an industry-recognized associate degree in Computer Science or STEM-related field, and gain relevant work experience. Mentoring, workplace visits, job-shadowing, and internships are integrated into the program.
In Rhode Island, the Tech Collective is the central industry representative to the P-TECH high-tech program. The Tech Collective member organization partners with companies, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, government, academia, and the technology workforce to encourage and develop diverse populations to enrich the technology community.
Kris Turgeon, P-TECH industry liaison for the Tech Collective, says a major goal of P-TECH is to expose students to the workplace environment and technology professionals at an early age and “create a network for when they graduate.” It also helps students, 70 percent of whom have no one in their family who has attended college, and 90 percent of whom are from minority populations, recognize that tech could be a career fit for them.
“It helps them to see there is more of a connection than they realize,” Turgeon says. For example, she explains, “I took a student to a software company, and she was afraid. She said she didn’t belong there. I said, ‘We’re going to change that.’ By the end of the two-hour session she realized those people were not that different from her.”
Turgeon recruited Shorr, who is a member of the Tech Collective, to be a mentor for the first P-TECH class in Providence. She will be paired with that student through graduation.
Shorr helps her student refine business skills that will boost her ability to get a job, like how to craft an email. The program provides a mentor portal where students can post their work and mentors can comment and communicate with the student.
“I feel like IT folks can be lacking in soft skills,” says Shorr, whose second business, Shorr Success, helps channel pros and others strengthen the way they speak, write, and present themselves. “I’m a certified image consultant and have advanced training in professional presence and nonverbal behavior. I felt strongly that I have the skills that are lacking in the IT industry, so let me share them. It increases their chances of employment, and increases the chance of an IT company hiring someone who’s prepared.”
Mentoring takes about three hours a month, Shorr says, and includes a few events at the school, such as a kickoff breakfast and an end-of-year program. She is in her second year with the program.
“It’s a really cool process to watch [my student] and her peers grow and expand. It’s been a rewarding experience.”
Have a paying-it-forward or not-for-profit story to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.