Intensive program trains workers for info tech jobs

Michael Martinez|The Detroit News

Detroit— The smile on Elantis Hall’s face told the story.

Hall beamed ear to ear Friday morning as she accepted her diploma in the inaugural class of an intensive information technology boot camp at the Wayne County Community College District’s downtown campus.

Hall, a 34-year-old mother of four from Detroit, entered the program March 18 as a part-time bartender. She walked out Friday as an IT analyst with GalaxE.Solutions, a health care IT firm that is expanding in Detroit.

The rest of Hall’s 72 classmates come from a variety of backgrounds and most did not have prior IT experience before joining the program. But 27 boot campers were immediately hired after graduation by companies such as InfoSys, technology firm Compuware Corp. and mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc.

“This was a new experience, especially with no background (in IT),” said Hall, who learned about the program through a church friend on Facebook. “It was tough, but it paid off.”

The 18-week boot camp was sponsored by WCCCD and India-based IT consultancy InfoSys. It consisted of eight-hour classes Monday through Friday.

The program was supported by Quicken Loans, GalaxE and Compuware to train more local talent. Some of the companies, such as Quicken Loans, have been searching out of state for qualified IT job candidates.

“This wasn’t like taking night classes or even regular college,” said Ralph Hayse, 45. “This was a huge commitment.”

Before the program, Hayse worked in construction, as an auto supplier and as a business analyst.

“It’s unheard of for people to change careers like this,” said Binod Hampapur, senior vice president at InfoSys and the graduation keynote speaker. “It’s like changing airplanes in mid-air.”

Hampapur and others, including the Detroit Economic Development Corp. and The Detroit Workforce Development Department, planned the program in February. Hampapur said he chose the city because he saw potential.

“We saw a lot of people who had lost auto jobs but who could take up an alternative career with the proper instruction,” he said.

India hosts a similar 24-week program, but the accelerated version is the first of its kind in the United States.

“We feel extremely happy that we could make a difference with some of the most enthusiastic people in Detroit,” Hampapur said. “It’s a great feeling to know we made a difference in someone’s life.”

Information technology jobs are in demand. The state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives said jobs in the information technology field are among the “Hot 50” jobs in Michigan through 2018.

That’s one reason Sonia Ross, 42, enrolled in the program.

A former pharmaceutical technician, Ross said she saw technology taking over her field and realized it was time for a career change. The single mother of two from Detroit has been unemployed since February and focused her efforts on the boot camp.

It could pay off soon. Ross said she is expecting a call from GalaxE about a quality assurance position where she would test software.

“This was a life-changing opportunity,” she said. “More than I could have ever hoped for.”

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