Ahmed Mohamed is one of hundreds of reasons the fledgling Minneapolis-St. Paul TechHire initiative is having success training nontraditional adults with technology aptitudes who usually lack computer science backgrounds.
Nearly 600 graduates were placed in full-time positions, at average salaries of $48,000, through 2016.
In 2015, Minneapolis joined with three accelerated private training programs to help fill the fast-growing demand for tech jobs in the region that now features nearly 7,000 vacancies in the Twin Cities area.
Mohamed, 25, went through the several-month IT-Ready training program of CompTIA, a computer industry association that was sponsored by the city in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in 2016.
“I was skeptical at first because the program was free,” he said. “The class was not easy. And I had to go to work after class. I was motivated and I had family support.”
Mohamed started as a paid intern last year and was hired in January by Fairview Health Services on a career path with annual pay that could top $75,000.
“There’s no limit how much I can grow within Fairview,” Mohamed said. “It’s not just the work. I have a manager who asks me how I’m doing. I’m on a career path. I’ve never had that before.
“I always had a knack for tech. But the IT-Ready class and internship is where I really learned. I’m not afraid to ask for help of my team.”
Mohamed, who supports his mother, has the good salary and benefits that he lacked when he worked in retail and travel agencies.
Laura Beeth, an HR director at Fairview, located near Cedar-Riverside, said Fairview has hired seven MSP TechHire graduates. They help fill critical job openings and fulfill a commitment to hiring more neighborhood talent.
CompTIA’s philanthropic arm, “Creating IT Futures,” provides the training in several cities. It has an office and classrooms in Edina.
And it partners with the city and other sponsoring agencies to provide classes in other locations. The city’s sponsorship has meant several classes in Minneapolis, strategically offered on public transit lines, as well as opportunities for more city residents.
MSP TechHire says the 450 certified graduates who landed jobs are 33 percent women and 25 percent minorities. Some 150 students who did not complete the courses or certification moved into higher-paying jobs involving office technology.
The trainees have been hired as help desk, desktop support and software developer personnel and have found employment with the likes of C.H. Robinson, the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Target, the Nerdery, Best Buy, Allina Health, Fairview and dozens of other small-to-large employers. Graduates sit for the CompTIA certification exam that covers desktop and help-desk skills.
The growing MSP TechHire consortium was recognized in 2015 by the Obama administration as one of the nation’s first TechHire centers. Mayor Betsy Hodges calls it a boon to the regional economy and great pathway to IT certification and good jobs for those who lack IT degrees.
Prime Digital Academy, also a Tech Hire affiliate, is an "immersive training company" with a partner network of local employers that provide paid internships and employment.
Prime Digital President Mark Hurlburt is a former executive with techie-firm the Nerdery of Bloomington. It and other employers launched Prime in 2014 as a software design and IT support school that puts students in class for several months, followed by on-the-job training.
“The 179 local businesses who have engaged with Prime grads are tapping a new pool of talent that’s helping to diversify, enrich and grow their tech teams,” Hurlburt said in an e-mail. “And more than 260 [professionals] have volunteered as mentors for emerging talent in our program.”
Prime Digital, which charges tuition, has graduated 371 students over two years, including 116 scholarship recipients. Their average salary is $55,500.
Prime requires up to 1,600 hours of classroom time and other work. About two-thirds of the students have college degrees, but not in a tech field. And Prime’s graduates are 36 percent women and 17 percent minorities. So, Prime is graduating talent that is more diverse than the tech industry as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Urban League, the city, the Minneapolis Foundation and Creating IT Futures are collaborating on the next IT-Ready class at the Urban League’s North Side headquarters.
“We chose to partner with Creating IT Futures because of their history of placing women and people of color in family-sustaining work,” said Urban League CEO Steven Belton. Minneapolis residents only will be accepted for the June Urban League class. Applications are due by May 19.