Growing IT Academy reach in Southern Virginia by upgrading and expanding facilities
The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), established in 1986, works in partnership with community organizations to provide access to a variety of college and career training options. As datacenters and other tech organizations expanded operations in Southern Virginia, SVHEC launched its IT Academy (ITA) program offering both credit and non-credit courses and training for CompTIA certifications in server, network, and security skills.
The ITA has been extremely successful in producing a pipeline of potential employees for local tech jobs, yet enrollment is restricted by capacity limitations.
Expanding program availability through joint investments
Microsoft provided $200,000 in funding to assist in renovations and construction work that will expand the ITA program. A matching grant from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) enabled additional staff and instructors to be hired to support expanded programming. These investments will allow more individuals from the ITA waiting list to participate and facilitate an extended program for students requiring additional time to succeed through an extended day cohort (versus the existing evening cohort). This flexibility will aid the ITA’s continuing efforts to reach historically underserved, impoverished population groups that may lack the time and resources to keep a traditional class schedule. Current Microsoft employees are also interested in ITA programming, but are limited due to scheduling; the planned expansion will allow for a flexible day cohort more convenient for working adults.
An additional repair lab will be outfitted with laptops and classroom equipment to serve high school students who join ITA programs through the Career Tech Academy. Additional programming will also become available as capacity grows, including credential training for cloud-based services like Azure. Increasing the ITA pipeline not only grows the local employment pool, but also may prove useful in attracting additional tech companies to the area.
Advancing IT opportunities in Southern Virginia
At the beginning of each course, Microsoft employees meet with the class to answer questions from students, from what the work is like to how to prepare for an interview. Participating students also get access to decommissioned datacenter equipment that Microsoft donates, which helps supplement classroom learning with hands-on experience that closely mimics real-world datacenter conditions. So far, 11 ITA participants have been hired into the Microsoft datacenter in Boydton.
“Microsoft has been here from the very outset,” says Kelly Shotwell, the IT Academy Program Coordinator at SVHEC, “helping us design the training space, helping us figure out what kinds of programs we needed to offer, what kinds of certifications were relevant.”
“Microsoft has been here from the very outset, helping us design the training space, helping us figure out what kinds of programs we needed to offer, what kinds of certifications were relevant.”—Kelly Shotwell, IT Academy Program Coordinator, SVHEC