Eight previously unemployed Rhode Islanders with information technology experience now have full-time jobs in the state as a result of a 14-week program that oiled some rusty skills and added up-to-date technology training requested by employers.
Of the group of 16 in the IT On Demand program, the remaining eight participants have completed internships providing them with a step-up in the job search.
It may be a job-by-job struggle for the Ocean State to bridge the stubborn gap between positions sitting vacant and the lack of skilled employees to fill them. Then there’s the state’s unwanted ranking as first in the nation, tied with Nevada, as having the highest unemployment rate of 9 percent in November. The U.S. unemployment rate is 7 percent.
Statistics aside, those who were out-of-work despite tech experience and are now gainfully employed in their field are breathing a sigh of relief and moving forward in their careers.
“I’ve worked on computers for 15 years. I did a little network administration and desktop support,” said Ben Lyons of Coventry, who was an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force for 10 years, then a civilian aircraft mechanic who also worked for Textron and Computer Sciences Corp. Unemployed since last February, Lyons was not making much progress in his job search.
“I probably sent out 75 resumes. I was having a tough time,” said Lyons, 52. “It’s hard because you don’t understand why you’re not getting hired. You don’t know if there are 50 people applying for the job or it’s age, or you just don’t have the skills they need.”
Like many native Rhode Islanders, Lyons has a strong attachment to the state.
“I was away for 15 years between the military and civilian work, but I want to stay in Rhode Island,” said Lyons. “Family keeps you here.”
Lyons is one of the 16 graduates of IT On Demand, a collaboration that included the Governor’s Workforce Board, which provided an Innovative Partnership Grant of $218,000 for the program developed by the Tech Collective. Another $15,000 in funding came from the Community College of Rhode Island’s Pathways to Advance Career Education, or PACE, program.
“My IT skills were a little dated and in a down economy, if you don’t have the latest and greatest skill set, you’re not very marketable,” said Lyons, who moved from an internship at PC Troubleshooters in Warwick, which was part of the IT On Demand program, to a full-time job at the tech company as a remote support technician on the Monday immediately following the Dec. 20 graduation.