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Program Helps Veterans, Unemployed, Disabled Launch New Tech Careers

The Computer Technology Industry Association now wants to expand its Creating Futures program further into the United States and in other countries.
About 18 months ago, the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) began piloting Creating Futures, a program to help veterans and also disadvantaged youth and disabled and unemployed individuals launch tech careers.

Since then, about two dozen individuals have participated in the program, including 13 returning veterans in Jacksonville, Fla., four at-risk youth in Cleveland, and eight dislocated or unemployed workers in Ireland.

Now the technology industry association is looking to expand the program by helping more individuals jump-start new technology careers.

The program is offered free to qualifying candidates, including dislocated workers who lost their jobs in other industries such as auto manufacturing, or who suffered through disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, said Susan Underhill, co-chair of the CompTIA Creating Futures board and VP of global certification and partner education at Hewlett-Packard.

CompTIA, which focuses much of its attention on training and certification programs, has to date funded the Creating Futures program through its non-profit Education Foundation, which has collected more than $3 million for the program. Funding so far has included contributions from companies like HP, and also a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, said Underhill.

CompTIA now wants to expand the program's presence further into the United States and also overseas by seeking additional funding from other donors and aligning with local and state labor bureaus that would steer candidates to the Creating Futures program for tech-career training, rather than building their own tech job training programs.

"The idea is to scale Creating Futures to bring more people through the program," Underhill said. As a vendor and employer, HP sees the value in Creating Futures because of a possible impending tech-worker shortage fueled by declining numbers of young people entering the field and millions of baby boomers retiring in the years to come.

As part of HP's participation in Creating Futures, the company offers free training and certification testing for HP technologies so that graduates of the program can gain employment with HP channel partners, including resellers, Underhill said.

Creating Futures is a six-step program: assessing an individual's skills level; offering a scholarship; providing training; providing certification testing; hooking up an internship; and finally helping individuals find full-time employment.

Among veterans who say they've already benefited through participation in the program is Aaron Sanchez, a U.S. Navy officer who several months ago returned home to Florida and will leave active duty in December.

Sanchez took a two-week training program in hardware and operation systems from education firm New Horizons, a Creating Futures partner. Sanchez said he expects to soon take the test to earn his CompTIA a+ certification, which he said will help him gain employment as a hardware and software technician.

"I'd like to be an IT manager, perhaps in an IT organization," he said. Sanchez might have a leg up regardless of his participation in Creating Futures. That's because he already has a bachelor's degree in computer science and a tech-related master's degree. His last stint in the Navy was as communication director overseeing his ship's LAN.

Still, even with that technology and leadership experience under his belt, Sanchez is confident that Creating Futures will help his own career future. Earning certification as a computer technician will make him a stronger IT manager one day. "I want to lead others, but I think it makes me stronger when I can show people how to do their jobs, too," he said.

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