This new program will train you to work in tech — and pay you too

The burgeoning tech industry is one of the better opportunities for high wages in San Luis Obispo County, but many people assume you have to be a tech whiz (or the next Mark Zuckerberg) to get hired.

Not true, the organizers of a new local program say.

The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, SLO Partners and Creating IT Futures have partnered with tech firms like Mindbody, Amazon and iFixit to offer a new program that will train potential tech workers, giving them experience in IT and software testing over a 14-week intensive.

And they’ll get paid $70 a day to do it.

“The idea is after 14 weeks, you are in tech,” said Dan Weeks, business liaison for SLO Partners and the county Office of Education. “Each one of the companies we work with says they can’t find enough people with the right attitude and training. So we’re taking the risk out of it for them, and local employers are able to get people they can afford, with great attitudes.”

The course isn’t aimed at computer science graduates — it’s catered at people returning to the workforce, veterans, graduating high school students, college graduates and anybody else who may want to get into the tech industry but doesn’t have the training, Weeks said.

According to Weeks, industry estimates say by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs in the United States. Comparatively, universities churn out only about 40,000 computer science degrees each year. The deficit will have to be made up somehow, Weeks said, so why not focus on a larger, untapped population of potential workers?

Workers in the tech industry make an average salary of more than $80,000 a year in SLO County, according to 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We need to think broader,” he said. “For example, we’re seeing that a computer science graduate doesn’t want to and isn’t going into software testing, but a liberal arts person is perfect for that role. Like copy editors. Copy editors are perfect for that sort of thing. It’s details.”

Fifty students will be accepted into the first two classes, 25 in Paso Robles and 25 in San Luis Obispo. Those students will undergo an eight-week, pre-apprenticeship course that focuses on basic computer service skills and obtaining CompTIA A+ certification. Students in the course will be paid a $70 per day stipend once they complete the certification, thanks to a grant from the California Apprenticeship Initiative.

Thirty of those students will be chosen to go on to either an IT or software testing pathway, consisting of another six weeks of classes (the remaining 20 not picked for apprenticeships will receive job placement help).

From there, the students will move on to year-long apprenticeships with local firms like Mindbody, Amazon, iFixit, IQMS, TransUnion, Clever Duck, TekTegrity and others.

During the apprenticeship, the newly-trained tech workers will be paid $15 per hour, with raises of $18 per hour and $22 per hour available after the first six months and year, respectively.

“What we are saying is give tech a try,” Weeks said of the program. “It can sound too good to be true, but it’s not. It’s a great opportunity.”

The program starts July 10, and applications will be accepted through June 22. To apply, visit http://www.slopartners.org/ticket-into-tech.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie