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Like puzzle pieces, two problems sometimes link up into a solution. Take the current cloud skills shortage. There just aren't enough new college grads to go around, leaving cloud providers, businesses, and the public sector struggling to find talent. 

As I write this, LinkedIn shows 247,000 open jobs in the US with the keyword "Linux", and according to Indeed.com, the average starting salary for a system administrator is $73,542.

The complementary problem is what economists are calling the Great ResignationPeople who took stock of their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic are leaving unsatisfying jobs in record numbers — in search of better pay, more advancement potential and more fulfilling lives. 

Filling the skills gap

I’m part of a grassroots team at Red Hat that came up with an idea to solve both problems at once. Introduced in August 2021, the Red Hat workforce development program allows colleges and universities to help non-degree seeking students, who may want to change careers, enter the IT industry via certification or get an IT certification.

The certifications qualify them for a myriad of IT jobs – like Linux system administrator. Red Hat certifications are in high demand. More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Red Hat technologies, as do many federal, state, and local government agencies and public universities. 

These jobs also have good advancement potential. Someone hired as an entry-level system administrator can work their way up to positions like software developer, site reliability engineer or QA analyst. The US Bureau and Labor Statistics reports average pay for these jobs at $110,000 in 2020 and estimates that demand will grow by 22% through 2030.

"Leveling the playing field" inspires a lot of talk. Workforce development makes it real. People in all walks of life can take advantage of the same training and certifications available to people attending degree-granting institutions. 

The first colleges to offer workforce development

In August 2021, Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina introduced a four-month program preparing students to take the Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator exam. Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) in North Carolina will follow suit in the 2022 spring semester. FTCC expects to enroll veterans and transitioning members of the military – many who will be eligible to take the course for free through the College’s Transition Tech program. 

Lifting people up

Of all of Red Hat’s educational programs, workforce development holds a special place for me because of its potential to change the trajectory of people’s lives. Students attending degree-granting institutions, often preparing for their first professional job, can earn skills and certifications through Red Hat Academy

Red Hat Training is designed to help IT professionals develop the skills and knowledge demanded by a growing technology market. Workforce development is for everyone else. Hospitality workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Thirty-something retail workers who want more regular hours so they can spend time with their kids. People in midlife looking for a more satisfying career. Workforce development lifts them up.

For inspiration, I look at my colleague Matthew Urena, a Red Hat solutions architect. Urena used to be a police officer. Here’s what he told me: "When our first kid was on the way, I saw all the overtime and night hours I had to work in order to make a decent pay, and that just wasn’t going to work for me if I actually wanted to see my kid. I used my GI bill to pay for classes at night, earning Red Hat certifications. Four months later, here I am a solutions architect at Red Hat!" 

Our workforce development program reaches more people like Urena. People who have the drive and talent to succeed at IT careers but not the time or money to earn a college degree.

An evolving journey

I’m still amazed that this team managed to introduce the workforce development program in just a few months and already have two institutions engaged.

Our workforce development program is still new, and we expect it to evolve as we get feedback from the first educational institutions and students. We view it as building for the future, developing sustainable economic security and growth, and developing a pool of talent to deliver our own managed cloud services.

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About the author

Having spent the bulk of his career working in or with the public sector, Damien Eversmann is somewhat of an expert when it comes to IT in government and higher education. Throughout his working life, Eversmann has served as a developer, system administrator, development manager, enterprise architect, technology director and now solutions architect.

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