More than 70,000 young people living in southeastern Pennsylvania, between the ages of 16 and 24, are neither in school nor employed.
The NPower Pennsylvania Information Technology Workforce Program, ITWorks, aims to decrease those figures.
“ITWorks gave me hope when I thought there were no more chances,” said Lila Santos. The 24-year-old mother enrolled in the program “to be a role model” for her son but admits she “didn’t know where or how to begin.”
ITWorks provides its students with an experience that helps to improve their income earning potential for life and help them become self-sufficient.
The program is designed to help young people become job-ready for a technologically sophisticated workplace, by teaching them PC configuration and networking skills, troubleshooting, customer service skills and communication skills, all while acquiring an understanding of a professional work environment.
“I am quiet but I am always focused on the things I need to do,” said 22-year-old Gary Maxwell. “Going to college was big challenge for me. Being in the ITWorks program at NPower has greatly helped me both personally and professionally.”
Now an intern with Brandywine Realty Trust, Maxwell says he is “taking my life more seriously by working harder to apply my IT training.”
Students develop a robust social consciousness through service internships at nonprofits and upon graduation are given opportunities to be placed nonprofits as IT employees.
“The goal is to have these students look at careers instead of just jobs,” said Anthony Pisapia, a Lansdowne resident and director of development and programs for ITWorks. “We had 150 applicants for 15 slots. The need was out there; there are a lot of folks that need this program.”
Through a 16-week, immersive IT training program, graduates are placed in full-time employment throughout the Philadelphia area’s nonprofit, business and public sectors. Participants practice their new skills and give back to their communities by performing 5-week, paid service internships for area nonprofits.
All through the program students are mentored by professionals and taught the “soft” skills they need to compete in a modern workplace.
Mentorships are enabled through NPower PA’s deep corporate relationships visa vie The NPower PA CIO Council, a group of 32 Fortune 500 CIOs (chief information officers) who are committed to NPower PA’s mission. These interactions put these students on the fast track to possible employment within these corporations upon graduation.
“With the help of Manuel Portillo, Ebony Taylor, Patrick Callihan and Anthony Pisapia, I now know that I can be a role model for my son and not just ‘mom, the pizza girl,’” Santos said.
ITWorks targets urban youth, 18–25, who either have GEDs or high school diplomas but who have not moved on to higher education.
The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania is a founding supporter of ITWorks, which also receives generous support from Accenture, SAP and ING DIRECT.
ITWorks technology instructor, Manuel Portillo, is proud of his contribution to his students’ professional development.
In addition to acquiring a technological skill, Portillo stated that ITWorks differs from other programs in that students “learn how to work as a team, how to promote themselves in the workplace and how to assume responsibility.”