Monday, March 4, 2024

New Data Center Technician Career Launch program endorsed, opening doors to in-demand IT careers for local youth

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QUINCY - A groundbreaking partnership has achieved a significant milestone in the development of a new workforce development path for the Data Centers in Grant County. Computing for All, the North Central Career Connect Washington Regional Network, Quincy School District, Big Bend Community College, and esteemed employer partners Microsoft, Sabey Data Centers, and Quincy School District IT have joined forces to introduce the Data Center Technician Career Launch program. Career Launch programs  are the most intensive programs in the Career Connect Washington Framework, as they prepare young adults to start their careers with a combination of meaningful, paid, high-quality on-the-job experience with aligned classroom learning and a post-high school credential.

The Quincy Data Center Prep program will equip students with the necessary skills, credentials, and work experience to secure highly sought-after Data Center Technician roles, providing them with excellent wages and benefits just one year after high school graduation.

“Career Launch programs take considerable partnership and planning to develop, but they are intentionally developed to align to the skills and experiences young people need to be competitive candidates for great local jobs,” explained Dr. Sue Kane, Director of STEM Initiatives and Strategic Partnerships for the North Central Educational Services District.

The Data Center Technician Career Launch program commences with a sequence of courses that are offered as part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. The courses enable Quincy High School students to complete their first year of a two-year certificate program while still attending high school. Upon completion, students will transition to courses offered at Big Bend Community College, where they will have the opportunity to participate in a paid internship program with one of the Grant County-based data centers. This comprehensive program ensures that local youth can earn a valuable credentials and become competitive candidates for lucrative Data Center Technician positions.

“At Sabey Data Centers, we’re really proud to be involved with the Data Center Technician Launch program,” said Shawn Devine with Sabey Data Center. “From my experience, I’ve found it’s been mutually beneficial for the community, the students, and us as a company. As Sabey grows, we're going to need additional talent.  This program offers local students an opportunity to work in an industry where they have a bright future."

For years, Quincy has been fortunate to boast a thriving information technology (IT) presence. The Grant County Industrial Alliance (GCIA) also supported the program development. GCIA represents various local data center employers including Intuit, Microsoft, Oath, NTT DATA, Sabey, Vantage, Verizon Media, and H5 Data Centers, and was established to champion the common interests of these industry leaders. Over the past decade, the demand for IT professionals in the region has steadily increased, leading to a collaborative effort between GCIA and Big Bend Community College to develop an accredited credential pathway that equips the workforce with the precise skills needed to support data center operations. This program has already yielded promising entry-level candidates for data centers and possesses the potential to scale further with additional recruitment efforts.

Parallel to these developments, Quincy High School has diligently expanded its capacity to support students in their exploration of local IT career opportunities that offer family-sustaining wages. Since 2017, in collaboration with Microsoft TEALS, the Quincy School District has been offering introductory computing and programming coursework to provide students with a solid foundation and awareness of the vast prospects in the IT field.

Seattle-based nonprofit Computing for All was recruited by the group in 2021 to support the regional partnership in the creation of the Career Launch program. This program offers young adults an aligned path to develop their skills, attain relevant credentials, gain paid work experience, and successfully embark on entry-level IT and data center careers. Furthermore, it serves as a gateway to the Big Bend Data Center AA Degree, ensuring a comprehensive educational journey for participants.

This career pathway paves the way for aspiring individuals to pursue roles such as Data Center Technician or general IT Administrator, wherein they will utilize their expertise in areas such as network and security, hardware and software support, system troubleshooting, and operating systems. The career launch model may be leveraged for the development of other workforce shortages in the region.

The program encompasses 360 hours of classroom instruction across a sequence of 4 courses for high school juniors and seniors, followed by one year at Big Bend Community College in the IT Systems Administration Associates/Certificate/Cisco Networking certificate degrees. Participants will earn 15 dual college credits towards the IT Systems Administration Associates/Certificate/Cisco Networking certificate offered by Big Bend Community College, along with CompTIA A+ and ITF+ industry certifications. In addition, students will have the opportunity to engage in up to 400 hours of work-based learning during the summer after high school graduation or following the first year of college.

Dr. Nik Bergman, Quincy School District Superintendent, is looking forward to continuing the regional partnership to support students.

“The Data Center Technician Career Launch Program perfectly aligns with our QSD Strategic Plan Goal Five - Pathways to Graduation and Beyond,” he said. “Upon graduating from Quincy High School, seniors will not only receive their diploma but also earn a technician certificate, enabling them to make immediate contributions to the thriving data center industry in our community. We are incredibly excited to partner with local data centers, as this collaboration provides our students with an innovative and promising career pathway. We are grateful for the support of our community's data centers, who have recognized and actively sought out talented students from Quincy High School.”

The program successfully enrolled its first cohort of 13 students in the fall of 2022 and recently received the final endorsement from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges in April, further cementing its credibility and commitment to providing students with a gateway to prosperous IT careers.

About Career Connect Washington: Career Connect Washington was created by Governor Jay Inslee, with support and funding provided by the Washington State Legislature, to provide our state's young people with expanded opportunities to gain real-world experience through a fully integrated career-connected learning system. Businesses, labor, educators, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and many others have come together to create a strategy for making these opportunities available in every part of our state to every student as part of their academic journey. Locally, the Career Connect Washington North Central Network is co-led by the Apple STEM Network (North Central Educational Services District) and Skillsource (North Central Workforce Development Council).  For additional information visit: http://www.ncesd.org/service/career-connected-learning/.

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