Compiled versus interpreted language. Scripting versus coding. Hardware versus software.
Wondering if I should just turn it off, unplug it, and plug it back in again.

The dedicated participants in JEVS’ newest program offering are certainly “plugged into” their coursework in the IT Career Readiness Program (part of young adult services offered through JEVS hireAbility). This six-month training and career exposure opportunity, launched in September 2018, provides hands-on technical training and paid work experience to a select group of Philadelphia high school and college-age students – and two weeks in, is stoking more than mere interest.

“It’s inspiring and interesting,” noted Michael, 19, with a smile on his face. “When I first heard about the program, I wasn’t too keen on it – I didn’t see how it would fit my plans. Now, I have a goal – obtain my certificate and work in IT at a hospital or even for Apple.”

That uncertainty – and the visualization of career paths, along with the recognition of possibility – is at the hallmark of the career exploration program.

“We’re teaching a number of different skills,” said Karina Khachatryan, IT Instructor. “We’re teaching technical skills, some coding, digital literacy, hardware and software knowledge, operating systems and even some web design, along with workplace soft skills. It’s a broad curriculum for a reason.”

That reason, according to Tara Campbell, the IT Career Readiness Coordinator, is to be both a knowledge platform and a launchpad for further vocational exploration.

“Young adults come to us looking for a next step,” she said. “It’s ‘now I can gain confidence and learn applicable things and have support through my internship’ while they self-determine what their own interests in the field are. We’re seeing nearly 100% attendance each day with lots of thoughtful feedback and interesting questions asked because, I think, it speaks to the need and desire participants have – to learn more, and to seize the opportunity to take that leap into independence, adulthood, and self-sufficiency.”

While quietly working on projects, the mood in the room is one of focused determination and even a sort of camaraderie – recognizing that the skills, friendship and networking are all assets for future possibilities.

“My case manager knew I was interested in chemistry and mixing formulas – but this is also problem-solving, and now, taking apart computers, I know how it works,” said Michael.

“As for a career, my mind is wide-open,” said Christopher, 21. “I could see myself in accounting, or pursuing a goal of becoming an inventor.”

Noted Jeff, 20, “I’ve been really surprised at what a good time together we’ve all had. I’m interested in writing – fantasy, science-fiction, even technical writing – and I’ve learned that I like the physical aspects (hardware) of IT versus coding, for instance.”

This focus on future possibilities– through pre-employment transition services – is the goal, not only of the program staff, but also collaborative partners Philadelphia Works, Inc., the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the JEVS hireAbility program, which provides employment, job-readiness and career exploration opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

“I’d love it if our participants develop a passion for or become passionate about technology and develop/refine great problem-solving skill sets…” said Khachatryan.

“…and I’d like for them to confidently job interview and sell those skills,” said Campbell. And as a spirited discussion of command line interface and graphic user interface commenced behind her, it would seem that work has already begun.

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