Free IT job training is available for city of Tucson residents that are unemployed or underserved minorities, veterans or “low-wage career changers” through a virtual training program funded by a city grant.
The goal of the training program is to get students CompTIA A+ Certification. The certification validates skills for entry-level IT jobs like service desk analyst, help desk tech or associate network engineer. These jobs can provide salaries from $39,000 to $64,000, according to CompTIA.
The training will be provided by Transmosis, a Phoenix cybersecurity skills trainer that’s working with the local nonprofit Community Investment Corporation and t consulting group Go for Vertical. The trio have a partnership called the Tucson Information Technology Skills Alliance, which was awarded a two-year six-figure Economic and Workforce Development grant by the city of Tucson in 2020.
Their goal is to create a local IT workforce by giving transferable skills to ambitious low-wage earners or people who have been laid off, said Chase Norlin, CEO of Transmosis. Norlin said that anyone who qualifies will receive about $5,000 worth of free training for the certificate.
“We want as many people to apply as possible,” he said. “Tucson is growing from an employer perspective, and there’s more and more tech jobs, but there’s not enough people to fill those jobs. A lot of them are these entry-level tech jobs that can lead to six-figure jobs.”
Norlin said they’re using the grant to make sure “Tucson employers don’t have recruit people from outside of Tucson to fill those job roles.”
The program matches students with internships, externships or jobs in its final weeks. The entire program is also virtual, requiring access to headphones, a microphone, internet and a computer with Mac or Windows and a browser.
It’s self-paced to give students the chance to “keep their day job,” Norlin said. The average student takes three months to complete the training, he said, doing the classes during any part of the day.
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Eight students completed the program last year, but Norlin said there were more than a 100 applicants. This time, Norlin said, they plan to accept all applicants though they’ll only be able to subsidize eight students from their target population for the CompTIA A+ exam that’s needed to gain the certification. Otherwise, anyone who applies can get in, but only the target population get help with job placement in the program’s final weeks.
Norlin doesn’t want the cost of the certification exam to discourage people from the program, saying that even if they do have to pay for it out of pocket it’s worth it to have the salary-boosting certification. CompTIA currently lists the A+ exam as $232, and Norlin said the test is “relatively rigorous.”
Transmosis developed their virtual training model when they were struggling to find employees for their bootstrapped Silicon Valley video ad company. Unable to bring in experienced IT workers, Norlin and his company started to train people from outside the tech industry to be their employees then used the experience as a model for growing local IT workforces rather than importing them.
“We realized that anybody with ambition and transferable skills could, with the right partner or training, could get a job in the fast-growing IT industry regardless of their background or where they work,” he said. “The big picture is around finding these underserved workers, people that were laid off, people that basically want to start their life over and get a job in the IT space but just don’t know what to do or where to go.”
Norlin said Transmosis has won more than $50 million in government grants from across the country including from the Department of Labor and the state of Maryland and California.
The tech industry in Arizona was called a top “opportunity market” by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2019, citing a report by the CBRE research group. Tucson, according to the report, had a 90 percent increase in jobs leading up to 2019 and saw its tech wage increase 29 percent to $90,528.
“The need for a highly trained, agile and robust technology workforce is evident in Tucson, where talent is often imported into the region rather than focusing on development of the local workforce” Go for Vertical CEO Edward Cruz said. “Meeting this demand for qualified local IT professionals can change that trend, and is crucial for attracting and keeping businesses with continued job and wage growth.”
There are 205,274 tech jobs in Arizona, a more than 3 percent increase from last year, according to a report by the Arizona Technology Council, who also reports that the state’s tech industry is 63 percent white and 69 percent male.
Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member.