Yet another great week coming to a close here at Per Scholas.
I’m finishing up my final report this week, now that we have the final piece of the puzzle, so to speak, with the conclusion of Wednesday’s IT Leader Summit. It is all coming together really quickly, and it’s great to see the energy I put in at the front end of this project is paying off now. We’re hoping to share the report with local training programs and community colleges, and it’s exciting to think that the work I’ve done this summer may impact the Columbus community in the coming months and years.
Wednesday I presented my research findings and survey results to members of our board at the summit. It went really well. It was encouraging to hear from board members that they had yet to see a study like this one, and that our response rate was actually not all that bad. Although we weren’t able to gather the entire board together for the summit, the members that were able to come were engaged and offered a lot of great insight. One particularly interesting question that came up was “How do we make Per Scholas candidates competitive with candidates with college degrees?” The survey indicated that the majority of employers hire candidates with a Bachelor’s degree for their middle skill IT positions, even if the position does not necessarily require a four-year degree. Our board members were able to shed some light on that. Many employers feel that a free 8-week training program does not require the same level of commitment that a college degree does, so college graduates are often seen as a safe bet. Based on that insight, I think we need to take another look at the way we market ourselves to potential employers. Per Scholas doesn’t just hand a certificate to anyone who walks through the door. Candidates are screened from the beginning and they follow a rigorous curriculum, learning more in eight weeks than some people do in two years. One of our board members made a really interesting comment. He said that perhaps with the downturn of the economy, college grads were more willing to do jobs they were over-qualified for (which might explain why so many middle-skill positions are filled by over-qualified people), but now that the Columbus economy is growing again, jobs are being created at a faster rate than students are completing degrees in computer science, creating a gap that Per Scholas can fill.
In addition to our summit on Wednesday, my supervisor has asked me to re-evaluate the way we screen candidates for the program, so I’ve been making some modifications to our interview process. When I saw the extensive list of questions that our office has been using, I wondered how they were able to keep the interview under 30 minutes. It’s my goal to streamline the interview questions and make it easier for any team member to do the interviews.
Things are wrapping up quite nicely. Looking forward to a beautiful weekend and then the final official week of my fellowship here at Per Scholas!