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IT training program for residents affected by COVID-19

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Several local agencies have partnered with an organization called Innovation Collective which has established a workforce development program called Workforce Entrepreneurship Research and Community (WERC).  Partners include Pasco Hernando State College, University of Florida IFAS, Hernando County, and Let’s Grow Hernando Foundation.

The mission of the program according to a media release from PHSC and Hernando County states, “It is a national community and workforce activation platform that integrates personal growth and skills training. The goal of the program is to help community members build the future they want through a series of online and offline training, community events, and mentorship from local and national experts.”

The WERC (Workforce Entrepreneurship Research Community) program has been developed to support modernized workforce training by the Innovation Collective. Their approach utilizes a maximum amount of $382,441 in 2020 CARES Act funds dispensed by Hernando County Government to train around 100 people adversely affected by COVID-19. Currently, about half the slots are filled. The CARES Act is a federal program to help individuals and businesses to weather the financial impacts of COVID-19.                                                                               

Innovation Collective is based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Along with Brooksville and Coeur d’Alene, they list Utica, NY, Spokane, WA, and North Las Vegas, NV as cities where Innovation Collective programs have been implemented.

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The vision of Innovation Collective as stated on their website:

“At our core, we hold a belief that all humans, regardless of education levels, race, gender, or creed, have value found in their authentic sense of self. That value needs to be shared with others. As the world has changed, the current rules of capitalism have created a convoluted pathway to success. Current market forces don’t necessarily produce an ethical system. Many citizens are disengaged and have given up hope. They wait for the government to provide a solution. Historically, great countries have been built on the spirit of revolution, then maintained by a system. We seem to have collectively lost the applied conviction that we all must participate in the success of our country and a clear understanding as to how we can contribute.”

The WERC program is for individuals who have lost their job or experienced reduced wages or hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is an 80-day program designed for people with no prior Information Technology (IT) training. Although IT experience or interest would be tremendously helpful in the new career.

The WERC website states that skills taught in the program include Customer service

Troubleshooting, Network protocols, Cloud computing, Windows operating system, Linux command line, Systems administration, Encryption algorithms and techniques.  Upon completion, students will receive “industry recognized Career Certification from Google.” 

The Google IT Support Professional Certificate is the culmination of a $49 a month course provided by Google. It appears that the Innovation Collective will enhance this course with tutors and classroom experience. Google describes their 100% online course as having virtual assessments which include: “computer assembly, networking simulation, writing effective support documentation, routing paths and subnets, wireless networking, device software management, public key or asymmetric encryption, incident handling, and more.” Google states that dedicating 5 hours a day the course can be completed in 3 to 6 months.

IT support is a position that can be accomplished remotely, but is often done onsite. There are many unfilled positions in the field, but those positions are often onsite in expensive locations. During the COVID-19 pandemic many IT support positions have transitioned from on location to remote. If managers and businesses are willing to continue allowing remote employees IT support may blossom as a career in areas with lower costs of living.

The ability of the Innovation Collective to place the Google IT Support Professional Certificate holders will be the best measure of success of this initiative. Often employers are looking for experienced workers, since they can immediately contribute. If the graduates of this program can find employment, they will be on their way to a career in Information Technology.

We also asked the Innovation Collective the following questions about their program and have included their answers below.

What are ACE certificates and again how is this helpful for people entering the IT field?

Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) certification demonstrates professional-level skills and expertise with one or more of Adobe’s graphic design or digital communication products. An education plan including Adobe ACE certification(s) can help prepare you for a range of careers in IT.

What percentage of people going through your program typically complete the 4 years worth of ACE certificates in 3 months?

The Hernando WERC program, which utilizes an online platform and intended to be an entry level course curriculum in IT support that takes roughly 100-125 hours of self paced online learning with support from our Innovation Collective Tech Lead support team. This program is a test program. Although we have done other programs like it previously, we have never been up against a deadline to get learners through the program. In light of the funding which expires on 12/31/2020, from Hernando County, as provided by the Federal CARES Act, there will no longer be a support team available unless funding is extended.

What are the 50 companies you are sending resumes to and what is the hire rate for people completing the program?

The companies include Google, Walmart, Bank of America and many others.

What proportion of these companies are local?

Most companies are national, although we have a few local to Hernando County that have agreed to hire some learners straight out of the program.

If not local, are companies offering remote positions or will hires need to relocate?

Remote positions are available.

 When can people join the program or is enrollment closed at this point?

We are taking enrollments in the Hernando WERC program currently. You can apply here: https://www.innovationcollective.co/werc/

There is a qualification process, as this is free of charge to the learners provided by the Economic Office of Hernando County for those affected financially by Covid-19.


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