Program Helps Underrepresented Candidates Build IT Careers

When an unfortunate accident left Jeannine Lilly, a former Latin and social studies teacher, paralyzed and disabled, she wasn’t sure what to do next. Fortunately, the CompTIA Educational Foundation’s Creating Futures program recognized Lilly’s potential and signed her up for a free training program through which she earned her CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications. Now Lilly is a volunteer who teaches computer courses to individuals with disabilities.

“Jeannine’s case is especially interesting because she has used her teaching skills and credentials to teach [people with disabilities],” said John Venator, president and CEO of the CompTIA Educational Foundation. “She is now sharing what she learned with other disabled people so they can also change their lives and get self-supporting careers.”

According to CompTIA, the purpose of the Creating Futures program is to “provide free career opportunities to populations historically under-represented in the IT industry — including United States veterans, individuals with disabilities, minorities, women, at-risk youth and dislocated workers.”

The program directors consult with employers to determine hiring needs and then tailor the training to in-demand IT skills. The program also makes use of the latest technology — such as ZoomText, which magnifies and displays high-definition text on the computer screen for the visually impaired — to help them achieve their goals.

“[The program] helps enable people to change their lives for the better, and we’re using technology tools to help them,” Venator said.

The program offers training in a variety of certification courses, as well as non-certification courses, such as Microsoft Office 2007: Beginning Excel and Project Management for the IT Professional.

“[Following training], people generally go into help-desk and service tech positions because [they possess the] IT skills or core competencies that every employer is looking for,” Venator said. “They also go to banks, manufacturing facilities and other kinds of organizations [that are looking to hire] people with computer skills.”

It’s a sound business investment to hire and retain individuals with disabilities who have undergone intensive training, Venator explained.

“There’s a common fallacy among a lot of employers that hiring [people with disabilities] is simply an act of charity [and] that somehow these people don’t measure up,” Venator said. “[But] when properly trained, they are just as good, if not better than, [their counterparts without disabilities]. The program enables people to change their lives for the better through training that leads to full-time, rewarding careers.”

– Deanna Hartley, dhartley@certmag.com

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Deanna Hartley

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