Companies in Jacksonville, Fla., have been begging for more hires with the tech skills to hit the ground running. But four-year degree programs too often fail to deliver the training needed by local employers in the banking, insurance, and healthcare industries.
Jacksonville University needed help to prevent “graduates coming out of college who are just not ready to take on the job,” says Christine Sapienza
, the private university’s provost. So four years ago JU turned to SkillStorm, a company with a track record as a tech staffing firm that had recently relocated its headquarters to the city.
SkillStorm worked with the university and its faculty members to develop tech-related coursework for degree programs. The goal wasn’t to create new credentials for students to earn, which would add more time and money as they pursued degrees.
“We’re actually taking the skills and putting them into the curriculum,” Sapienza says.
Likewise, the company helped to tailor course material to the hiring needs of local employers. As a result, instead of just adding generalized skills training in Salesforce and AWS tools, the university has been able to offer customized content with the industry certifications its graduates need to thrive in jobs with Bank of America or other companies.
Sapienza says the training is like an extended internship and has been a game changer for students. She describes SkillStorm’s role as a concierge with detailed knowledge about what industries want. Without that, she says, embedded tech content stands a good chance of falling flat with both students and employers.
“There’s so much competition,” she says, including free online content from tech companies themselves. “We can find those courses all over the country.”
SkillStorm in recent years has expanded its work with higher education
and industry partners. The company offers students 12 free and self-paced introductory courses
in tech, as well as 10 for-fee certification tracks
its instructors lead as authorized trainers for AWS, Pega, CompTIA, and other major platforms. In addition, it runs federally registered IT apprenticeships
for veterans of the U.S. military and transitioning service members.
The company also manages ambitious upskilling projects
for companies. It works with employers to figure out their technology requirements, then trains full teams of tech workers for them.
Earning a federal security clearance often is part of the process. More than 3K learners have completed these training tracks during the last three years. And the company has placed 10K tech consultants in full-time roles.
Here’s how the program works: For its company training, SkillStorm itself hires participants and trains them for 12 to 14 weeks. Completers are then deployed as consultants in two-year stints with Fortune 500 firms, typically financial services companies. SkillStorm has physical “delivery centers” where its IT workers can tackle projects for clients.
Participants are paid throughout the process, with pay rates of $20 per hour during the training and salaries up to $60K during their first year as consultants, with a possible wage hike to follow. They can become full-time employees at no cost to companies after two years.
“SkillStorm’s programs are designed to improve the employability of college graduates and alumni,” says Joe Mitchell
, the company’s COO.