Year Up program provides 'ABCs' of IT skills training

Year Up CEO and founder Gerald Chertavian has witnessed firsthand how digitization has dramatically increased demand for information technology professionals. The national Year Up program is designed to train low-income young adults for professional careers, and partners with big-name tech companies such as Symantec and Microsoft to develop essential IT skills training.

At the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., Chertavian spoke with SearchCompliance senior site editor Ben Cole about how the Year Up program prepares students with the IT skills training necessary to thrive in the digital economy.

For today's students to get ahead, Chertavian said that effective IT training should go beyond the hard skills typically associated with tech pursuits and put equal emphasis on the benefits of positive attitude and strong communication skills.

The Year Up program provides students with six months of classroom training and six months of in-the-field training through their internships. When it comes to preparing students for an IT or tech related career, what's the big focus of the curriculum?

Gerald Chertavian: Half of our curriculum at Year Up is really what we call the ABCs: Attitudinal, behavioral and communication skills. Then, combined with a marketable skill, whether it's cybersecurity, quality assurance testing, Java programming, we're really able to provide an employer with what they need, which is someone who has skills but also has the attitudes and behaviors that they want to actually bring that someone into their companies and invest in them and develop them as employees.

How much of that training is hard versus soft IT skills training, and where are the biggest gaps that Year Up has to fill in?

Half of our curriculum at Year Up is really what we call the ABCs: Attitudinal, behavioral and communication skills.
Gerald ChertavianCEO and founder, Year Up

Chertavian: At Year Up, probably half of our training is around professional skills. Some people call them soft skills, we call them harder skills. The other half is something marketable, something that we know that there's an established market for: cyber, Q/A testing, Java programming. The gaps we're filling in, actually, are more about helping a young person get ready to work in a Facebook or a Google, or a Goldman Sachs or a State Street, and really knowing what those environments look like, what they demand. Teaching the hard skills is actually not that hard at the end of the day, but helping someone to be comfortable and professional in moving into those environments, having the right attitudes and behaviors, that actually takes a fair bit of work and is arguably a more important aspect of what we're doing long-term for our young people.

Big Data 2.0 is one of the major topics at the MIT Conference, and it recasts the big data discussion of security and data privacy. How has that emphasis on data security and privacy changed the IT skills training that Year Up is developing for the students?

Chertavian: The emphasis on security has really increased demand for different skills from our young people, so we've launched a whole initiative in cybersecurity with Symantec. We've created a whole curriculum with JPMorgan Chase on fraud detection, which is an element of data security. It's created new demand for jobs and skills, but at the same time employers can't overpay for that because it's a cost center. It's really not a revenue center for an organization, so they also have to figure out how do you hire the right skills, and hire people who have greater skills than actually you need to fully protect your organization from all the technical and cyber threats that are out there.

Let us know what you think of the story; email Nicole Laskowski, senior news writer, or find her on Twitter @TT_Nicole.

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