Kari Lindley, technology education manager at Goodwill Industries of East Texas, is on a mission to provide IT skills training to underserved and underrepresented individuals in her service area, helping them overcome barriers to employment—the overarching mission of nonprofit parent organization Goodwill Industries International. She’s doing so by running an MSP out of Goodwill's Tyler, Texas, location along with IT skills and certification classes for local participants.
Her journey started when she attended an IT incubator session at Goodwill’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 2017, and learned how to write a business plan. “Forty pages later of this business plan, we had a sustainable model to start teaching individuals in our community,” she explains.
Launched in 2018, GoodTech Academy started with a CompTIA A+ certification class and placed several students in jobs that first year. Today, the program has expanded considerably, offering CompTIA certification courses for A+, Network+, Security+, and Cybersecurity Analyst+; a five-course curriculum for Google IT Support Professional Certificate; a beginner-level, six-course program for Google IT Automation with Python Certificate; and basic computer literacy training.
The academy gives individuals in the community “a chance to get some equity and some training,” Lindley says. Classes are free; students just pay a $20 enrollment fee to cover the cost of a background check.
The academy offers both virtual and in-person, instructor-led classes. For both formats, instructors work with the students on homework sessions and reviews.
“We also have a huge hands-on portion of our training, so when the students come in, if they're in person, they get a build and a sealed computer,” she says. “The sealed computer is the one that they do their classwork on. Their build computer builds [knowledge] from each chapter. They take it all apart and then they build it up and configure it and work through it so that they have a working system.”
She adds, “Sometimes we'll go in and we'll break those systems just so they know how to troubleshoot them. And it makes things interesting, so you know there might be something unplugged on the motherboard.”
When students discover their computer doesn’t work, Lindley says instructors tell them, “‘You're the technician. You need to work on that!’ So it's really been fun in that aspect.”
In addition, Lindley says the academy’s in-house staffing model has an employee who works to place students into the field to start their careers.
The in-house MSP is another way for students to get exposure to opportunities in tech. “The model is for students to work as tech support for this MSP so that they can gain some experience,” she explains. Working with N-able solutions, students service tickets for the MSP’s one client, a financial institution, as well as learn network analysis and backup and data recovery through the cloud. “We utilize that in order to allow our students to gain knowledge of real working skills and … then the MSP services [fee] goes back into the program so that more students can have these programs and not pay for the curriculum.”