Magazine article Techniques

It Field Provides Some Stability for Workers Changing Careers

Magazine article Techniques

It Field Provides Some Stability for Workers Changing Careers

Article excerpt

When it comes to curriculum, certifying and training, no industry is more challenged to keep current than the information technology field (IT). IT industry professionals experience constant changes in computer software and hardware. As one of the top fields listed nationally, IT training programs are thriving at the Warren County Career Center (WCCC) in Southwest Ohio, particularly in the economic downturn with more and more displaced workers using federal funds to return to school and retrain for a new career.

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WCCC IT coordinator and instructor Larry Smith said he has seen many people coming in who want to switch to careers that will be more sustainable than their previous jobs. While IT may not have been their first career choice when they began in the workforce, they are finding that along with health care, the IT field is surviving and thriving in the economic downturn.

"Some people come in thinking it will be an easy program," Smith said. "Once they get into the training and start to understand there is a lot of work involved, but it is doable work, they decide they want to continue."

Recently, Microsoft changed the focus of its certification tests and that precipitated the necessity for rewriting curriculum, recertifying instructors and purchasing new textbooks for the new Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional program at WCCC. The whole process took Smith about six months to redo the course and curriculum, and to also prepare for and earn the new certification himself. Soon, Cisco will be upgrading its certifications, starting the process over again for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) program. This means that in addition to the people who are getting into the field for the first time, all current IT professionals have to regularly return to school to update their certifications.

"We meet with local business leaders and other area educational institutions to find out what IT skills employers need," Smith said. "It is a constant task to make sure we are offering the most up-to-date information and preparing our students for certification tests. People have been coming to us at a very desperate time in their lives ... their unemployment is about to run out, they may be losing their house or their car, and they are realizing that the job they used to have will never return. We help them find a new path to success in the IT field."

WCCC provides a 40-hour course to prepare students to pass the Cisco CCNA exam. The course lasts about five weeks with classes taking eight hours per week. But, in order to really prepare for the exam, students must put in many more hours outside the classroom. Since local colleges are offering dual enrollment for the WCCC program, once students earn their certificates in Microsoft and Cisco, they can continue to earn a degree in the field.

Workers Forge New Career Paths

Traditionally, Smith says, many of his students are already in the industry, so they know what they need and are coming in with some understanding. Lately, he has seen more people coming into that class for a career change, too. When the economy is good, he said, the program gets more students coming from within the industry who need to earn certifications. He has had students who were passed over for a promotion, or didn't get the raise they thought they should, so they come in to brush up and earn the latest certifications. …

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