On June 21st, Virginia Ready gathered our IT/Tech Business Partners and Community College Partners to discuss career pathway solutions for credentialed VA Ready Scholars and non-traditional students.

These online Talent Task Force meetings help us better understand the hiring challenges faced by companies and job seekers, informing our development of career resources and skills-based workshops to better prepare Virginia Ready Scholars for their selected industry pathway.

With a “Skills First” methodology, Education Partners are given the opportunity to share what is being learned and applied in the classroom and gain insights from businesses about potential gaps in the skills needed for the current in-demand roles.

In turn, Business Partners have the opportunity to discover more about this underutilized talent pool looking for family-sustaining careers.

Jenn Merrill, Student Services Manager with Northern Virginia Community College, gave an overview of the school’s credential training, including CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications. For many jobs, these credentials are required even for entry-level positions along with Cloud certifications and development, as noted by Business Partners engaged in the conversation.

Listing skills on a resume certainly helps get a job candidate’s foot in the door, but what gets them hired? How can recruiters streamline this process to make sure they’re attracting the right talent pool?

Cyber Skyline, one of two featured speakers for VA Ready’s Talent Task Force, introduced its formula for streamlining the hiring process and finding qualified candidates faster:

  1. Looking past just the resume and digging deeper.
  2. Using skill evaluations that allow candidates to demonstrate technical ability & empower recruiters to make more informed decisions.

Smoothstack, a tech talent incubator, followed up to present their unique immersive training program, explaining the ins and outs of their apprenticeship program which provides education, training, mentorship, and experience to ambitious learners looking to break into the IT industry. The 2-3 year program lands many of their apprentices six-figure salaries with a Smoothstack partner or they sign on directly with Smoothstack. Either way, this strengthens Smoothstack’s partnerships with the businesses hiring the talent they’ve trained and further boosts participants’ credibility in the industry.

During break-out sessions, participants discussed the biggest barriers and requirements for VA Ready Scholars seeking a new career in the industry. Here are just a few of the points VA Ready gleaned from these engaging conversations:

  1. Coding skills are important for Scholars to learn early on in their education. Smoothstack shared that 50% of community college graduates who applied for their positions did not pass their entry-level coding test. Knowing basic coding is a requirement for ensuring smooth communication skills with colleagues. This led to a conversation about what skills are tested, and how community college partners can make sure they’re preparing students for this coding test and others like it.
  2. Scholars should be open to relocation and travel opportunities. While many companies have pivoted to fully remote work, multiple projects in the tech industry still require traveling to meet clients and in-office instruction to grasp the skills and interactive development needed for these roles.
  3. Scholars will succeed if they commit to learning multiple skill sets. There many niche skills in tech ranging from security to cloud computing, to website development, analytics, networking, and more. However, depending on where they work, Scholars will likely need to be proficient in numerous specialties to perform the duties of the job. Honing skills in multiple disciplines will not only give Scholars more job security, but it will show they are a team player who is willing to learn and help where needed.

These learnings and others will inform how Virginia Ready helps Scholars reskill and upskill for thousands of in-demand roles across the Commonwealth of Virginia in close partnership with our valued Business Partners and Education Partners. Thanks again to all who attended our IT/Tech Talent Task Force meeting, helping Virginians jumpstart their careers and enhance their skills in the field.

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