Pasco, Hernando rapid-training program pivots unemployed residents to IT pros in months

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A partnership between Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) and rapid-learning program Workforce Entrepreneurship Research and Community (WERC) aims to assist Hernando County residents who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WERC program is designed to educate learners, who may not have any knowledge of the inner workings of the internet and prepare them to gain employment in high-tech jobs in the $5.2 trillion IT industry in a few months’ time. 

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“When you have somebody who is a truck driver, or a dairy farmer, or a single mom, or a banker, and they’re learning how to code, or how to get into the tech space, it feels like ‘that’s just for the nerds,’ but you realize it’s just another language,” said Nick Smoot, the CEO and founder of Innovation Collective, which coordinates WERC programs in local communities. 

PHSC, with support from Hernando County, sees the WERC program as an opportunity to be a catalyst for job growth in Pasco and Hernando Counties. 

“Pasco-Hernando State College is excited to be in a partnership like this where we can affect people very quickly and give them the skills that they need for the future of jobs,” said Sonia Thorn, the assistant vice president of Academic Affairs.

Hernando County residents who qualify for the WERC program may enroll tuition-free and will have access to laptops provided by PHSC while completing the training. Learners receive online and small-group training in the Google IT program, supported by a technical mentor, as well as soft skills training, including money management, goal setting, and community engagement. In four months, learners are Google Professional IT certified and eligible for network-administrator jobs.

Upon completion, graduates have their credentials automatically sent to more than 50 companies that hire individuals with the certificate and they can receive the equivalent of four years of college credit through the ACE Certification program.

The WERC program hopes to expand and include residents in other Tampa Bay area counties. The goal is to implement WERC as a state-wide initiative. 

WERC kicked off Oct. 7, however, there are rolling entry points for those interested in taking advantage of the program. To learn more, fill out the form at this link.

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