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Women in IT program Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

Training Women in IT

// September 12, 2018

Grantee Spotlight: Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

Colorado is one of the nation’s top destinations for information technology (IT) careers. In late 2016, employers posted an estimated 16,400 IT job openings. Recognizing the increasing demand for qualified workers, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), a grantee partner of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, is invested in growing the pipeline of women in IT. In June, CCH launched a job-training program for low-income women in the Denver metro area to secure IT careers.

Through the Women’s Tech Training program’s five courses, 12 students will develop their basic IT skills and earn the CompTIA A+ certification, which qualifies them for entry-level positions, such as an IT support representative or computer hardware technician. Entry-level salaries range between $30,000 to $45,000 with an average 5% annual pay increase and opportunity for career growth.

All of the participants have high school diplomas or GEDs and most are single parents. But one hopeful truth aligns them all: they have a desire to work and find full-time employment.

Just because someone is forced to sleep in their car because of skyrocketing housing costs doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work opportunities.

“Our participants come from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, but all are either formerly homeless, homeless, or at risk of homelessness,” explained Tammy Bellofatto, CCH director of vocational services. “Just because someone is forced to sleep in their car because of skyrocketing housing costs doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work opportunities.”

Employers are beginning to understand the benefits of more women in IT. Gender diversity, per a 2015 McKinsey study, is the correlating factor that increased companies’ financial performance by 15% in comparison to companies lacking diversity. Other studies have shown that inclusivity of diverse abilities and perspectives creates stronger business results. Technical skills are essential for IT workers, but industry norms are evolving to require both technical and soft skills, such as communication and teamwork.

“At the Coalition, we don’t have a lot of women-specific vocational programming,” said Bellofatto. “The Women’s Tech Training program is a great opportunity for some of the women we serve to be able to take charge of their lives and to become self-sufficient. Many of our students who are single parents don’t get the chance to undertake training programs like this without putting themselves further in debt.”

The women-only program provides wrap-around services to prevent single mothers from having to miss class. Whether that means paying for child care or covering transportation costs during the program, CCH is committed to meeting the needs of its students to ensure their success.

If transportation and picking up a child will preclude them from getting this life-changing training, then we will pay for Uber.

“Things come up all the time for people who have a chaotic life,” said Bellofatto. “If transportation and picking up a child will preclude them from getting this life-changing training, then we will pay for Uber.”

Courses are underway for the first group of women and they are hopeful for their future career prospects and the chance to build their networks.

“They are especially excited that they are going to be in classes with one another. They have support from people in similar situations,” said Heidi McDonald, senior career training consultant with LEADERQUEST, CCH’s educating partner that offers IT and cybersecurity certification programs for students at all levels of professional expertise and experience. LEADERQUEST, an approved Workforce Initiative Opportunity Act trainer, has created a pipeline to employment for student participants through corporate partnerships including Ball Aerospace, CenturyLink, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Sierra Nevada Corporation.

With a 76% job attainment rate for past participants, the future looks bright for the Women’s Tech Training program’s first graduating class.

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