01 Aug Career Reboot: Program Helps Goodwill Employee Achieve Tech Dream
Even as a boy, Robert Anderson was fascinated by computers, and he always wanted a digital career. But life, it seemed, had analog plans for him.
Anderson served in the Marine Corps for seven years, got married and had seven children. To meet his family’s needs, he took a job driving for a food service distributor, and later — after moving to Nashville — for a countertop manufacturer.
“I put my dreams on hold,” he said. “I had to do what it took to put food on the table.”
In October of 2017, he began working for Goodwill as a transportation supervisor. Now he is 47, his children are grown, and he has more freedom to pursue his own interests.
So when an all-employee email from Goodwill announced in February that scholarships were available for an online course that could help participants launch a career in information technology, Robert did not hesitate.
“I jumped on it immediately,” he said. “When it came across my computer I was like, ‘This is heaven-sent.’ I just couldn’t believe Goodwill offered programs like that.”
Robert was among the first people to sign up for the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, which features cutting-edge online courses through Coursera, a leading online education provider, hands-on labs and more. It is designed to take beginning learners to job readiness in eight to 12 months.
Google.org is providing scholarships and full financial assistance for 10,000 learners this year. A portion of those seats are administered by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. Students receiving scholarships through Goodwill receive not only online instruction but also support services, such as job placement assistance.
Though he works full-time, Robert is well ahead of schedule in the IT support program, having completed three of its five sections. Participants are required to set aside eight-12 hours per week for online study, but Robert said he frequently spends entire weekends on the course — firing up his laptop as he drinks his morning coffee — because he finds the material in the online videos and labs so compelling.
“I’m learning about so many things,” he said, “like how information travels, for instance. As a user, we push a button and everything just pops up, but there are a series of channels — like routers and networks — the information has to flow through before it comes together like a puzzle. I think that’s fascinating.”
Robert said after receiving his IT support certificate he plans to seek a part-time job in the information technology field while continuing to work for Goodwill. His ultimate goal is to obtain his bachelor’s degree and work in cybersecurity.
Goodwill trainer Mark Kelly said the program gives participants such as Robert a significant advantage in the job market upon completion.
“The biggest benefit I see from it is the huge wealth of IT jobs right now,” he said, noting that there were 150,000 job postings for IT support roles in the U.S. last year. “This program is a manageable way for people with interest in that field to get some training that will help them start in those jobs — training that otherwise can be hard to come by and very expensive.”
Scholarships for the program remain available to the public. Anyone seeking more information or wanting to apply for a scholarship can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1 (800) 545-9231.
Though he spends much of his free time working toward his Google IT Support Professional Certificate, Robert said his wife is happy for him.
“She supports me 110 percent, because she knows this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.