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IT Bootcamp i.c.stars Deploying Skills to Underemployed Communities

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega IT Bootcamp i.c.stars Deploying Skills to Underemployed Communitiesi.c.stars first graduating class one night before graduation day.
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What if you could go from making a paltry $9 an hour to making something like $22 an hour in a matter of months? For students of Columbus’ i.c.stars program, that’s not outside the realm of possibility. The program focuses on honing technical skills in underemployed, minority communities, establishing relationships with local corporate partners to create and hire out a qualified talent pool.

IGS, a natural gas and electricity provider based in Dublin, became a project partner with i.c.stars for the program’s inaugural class in January. For a class of 16 (out of more than 100 applicants), IGS provided a business problem that the students had to solve.

IGS’ electronic data exchange (EDI) processes more than 1,500 files and 200,000 transactions on a monthly basis. The class was tasked with streamlining the process and saving the time and labor it takes to verify things like the date of receipt, the file process flow, and other data.

Breaking into four independent teams comprised of a project manager, two business analysts and a technical analyst, the class ultimately created a dashboard that automates the EDI and provides “a software solution around archived data and process flows within SI [System Integrator].”

Business problems are only a fraction of the work completed by an i.c.stars class, which meets for 16 weeks, 12 hours each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s an intensive IT boot camp basically,” says Kim Gayle, Executive Director, “but we teach a variety of different skill sets.”

They learn coding, communications, technical writing, and resume building. And, along with a business problem, the class works to solve a community problem of their choice.

“Whether that’s education or transportation or women’s issues, they have to provide an IT solution to solve that community problem,” Gayle explains.

They’re also visited by dozens of IT professionals who speak about their career journeys and offer feedback and advice. Since i.c.stars spends the final month of the program working on career development, many of the guest speakers also end up holding mock interviews. During the program’s hiring event, they may even bring i.c.stars graduates into their companies, as they come from a highly qualified talent pool in a time when tech professionals are hard to come by.

That’s a solution i.c.stars actively tries to provide: an end to the local tech talent drought.

IGS Infrastructure Manager Adam Luck, who sought out the partnership between the company and i.c.stars, says one of the reasons he wanted IGS to invest in the program was because of the shallow talent pool in Columbus.

“I saw the talent shortage, and I realized there’s all these hardworking people out there, and all they need is a chance and a foot in the door,” Luck says.

Through a company initiative called IGS Impact, Luck was able to channel his passion and interest in helping people into direct support from the business he works for. While IGS began as a project partner, the company is now a mentor sponsor, meeting with students on a regular basis and sending a dozen people from IGS to coach and guide them.

“I think our relationship with i.c.stars is going to constantly evolve,” Luck says. “This is really an investment in this group and this program. Hopefully we can solve this business problem, hopefully we can identify some talent here, but we’re really just doing it because it’s the right thing to do. We definitely look at this as more of a partnership.”

For more information about i.c.stars|Columbus*, visit icstars-columbus.org.

For more information about IGS, visit igsenergy.com.

Our new technology series is presented by our partners in the City of Dublin.

Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.

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