Tech Training Changes Lives at i.c.stars

This is the second part of a two-part story on a new technology bootcamp in Columbus, Ohio. i.c.stars affords low-income adults the opportunity to gain technical skills that could vastly alter their career paths and earning trajectories. In this Part Two, we hear from two students—one past and one present—about their experience with the program.

Economists speculate that by the year 2020, there will be one million more computing jobs than qualified applicants, making the value of individuals with a technical skillset extremely valuable to employers. In Part One of this story, we introduced you to i.c.stars in Columbus, Ohio, a program looking to address this shortage by offering an intensive technical development program, free of charge, to low-income adults looking to change the trajectory of their lives.

“The goal is to teach our Fellows software development skills, along with soft skills that are not being taught in traditional coding bootcamps. This sets them apart in their training,” said Kim Gayle, Executive Director of the program. “The discipline required is tremendous. These are 12-hour days, Monday through Friday from 8a.m. to 8p.m. But the opportunity for personal growth is huge.”

For Matthew Jones, an October 2017 graduate, and Jessica Barciz, a graduate from i.c.stars’ inaugural class, that opportunity meant newfound direction and purpose in life.

“I had been bouncing around from job to job for quite a while. I was a butcher, I worked in a warehouse. I did so many different things. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to learn a trade or unique skill. The i.c.stars program gave me avenues to do something unique in the world and set myself apart,” said Jones. “It can be challenging and there are long days, but it’s worth it. I’m about to graduate, and I know I’m qualified for a lot of great jobs. I can apply the skills I learned to just about any industry.”

Barciz had the same experience.

“I was sort of sleepwalking through a career. I had been in the service industry for so long. I was actually doing well and was promoted to manager at a restaurant and handling a lot of day-to-day operations,” said Barciz. “But I kept getting the feeling that I needed more. I knew I wanted to do something different with my life. When I found out about i.c.stars, I almost couldn’t believe it was all real. But the program lived up to the promise, and things are totally different for me now.”

Things are much different for students at the end of the program. They’ve gained a new lease on life, a direction for their careers, and significantly increased earning potential. The four-month program has an impressive post-graduation job placement rate of 97 percent, and the financial impact is huge. Before the program, participants earn an average annual salary of $9,846. Following graduation, that figure rises to $50,000.

Barciz went from personally unfulfilling work at a restaurant to life as a Quality Assurance Analyst at IGS Energy, the top large company to work for in Columbus in 2017.

“i.c.stars gave me the skills and the confidence to turn a program project into an interview and an interview into a full-time opportunity,” said Barciz. “Now I’m headed down a different path, doing something I love and I’m excelling. I feel fulfilled in this new line of work. The value of that can’t be quantified with any dollar number.”

Jones now feels confident he can land a fulfilling job in the industry of his choice—education.

“I’m just blessed for this opportunity. I’ve got the chance now to make something of myself that I never could have without learning about the possibilities in technology. The whole team really pushes you to use technology to pursue your goals,” said Jones. “I want to work in educational technology, either on the backend as a technical analyst or as a project coordinator. I have no doubt that at the end of this program, I can make that happen with the skills I gained in i.c.stars.”

Jessica and Matt’s futures look much different than they did just months ago. They made the brave decision to alter their path, challenge themselves and improve their lives. i.c.stars was there to give them the tools to do just that.

The program operates with the financial support of community partners like AWH, The Columbus Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Accenture, and others. i.c.stars is also located in and supported by Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier.

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