SUNY Delhi Gets Behind a Meaty IT Certification/Certificate Program
I’ve been reading (and writing) a lot lately about a variety of workforce preparation programs aimed at cranking out job-ready, entry-level IT professionals. Some other programs have left me wondering whether their portfolio of training and certifications is really enough to see people successfully join the workforce, having completed those offerings.
I have no such doubts about a program that aims to prepare residents of certain counties in the state of New York for jobs in IT and cybersecurity. The training has been tailored to needed job skills identified in the U.S. Department of Labor’s H1-B visa program.
According to the Boundless Immigration website, "The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for specialty jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. This can include occupations in fields such as IT, finance, engineering, architecture or more."
H1-B has been widely used to bring foreign workers into the United States to fill a wide range of IT positions, including entry-level ones. So long as an applicant meets the eligibility criteria and a sponsoring employer agrees to supervise and manage the visa holder for the duration of their stay in the United States, the relationship is locked in.
H1-B eligibility criteria include the following:
A job offer from a U.S. employer to fill a position that requires "specialty knowledge." In this case, that means IT skills and knowledge across a variety of domains
Proof of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in the field of “specialty knowledge.” (The training and certification in this program qualifies, given that the U.S. Department of Labor is sponsoring and paying for it.)
An employment shortfall. The employer must demonstrate a lack of qualified native U.S. applicants for open positions
It's worth noting here that H1-B visa numbers are subject to an annual cap, currently set at 65,000 visas. For those with Master’s degrees (or higher) from U.S. institutions, an additional 20,000 slots are available annually as well. That said, if the sponsoring institution is an educational or research institution, the caps do not apply.
It's About More than Foreign Job-Seekers, Though
A May 11 Yahoo! News story also reports an interesting and unusual extension to this program within U.S. borders. It reports that residents of Chenango, Delaware, Fulton, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, and Schoharie counties in the state of New York might also be eligible to participate. They must be 18 or older and possess a high school diploma or equivalent to register.
Note, these are all central and northwestern counties in New York (see this county map for more info). The Chengango-Delaware-Otsego Workforce Commission has, in fact, received a grant of more than $3 million in the form of an "information technology/cybersecurity grant that provides funding for short-term training in IT, cybersecurity, or manufacturing."
Good stuff, with SUNY Delhi’s Office of Continuing Education acting as an outlet for online courses. Students must complete all coursework by June 2024 to partake of monies from the U.S. Department of Labor grant. The SUNY Delhi Project Excite home page provides all the details one might need to understand what’s on offer and how to participate.
What’s in the Package
The following certifications are included in the programs coverage and content, prices to the right in parentheses are the published tuition costs for the courses and exams related to the accompanying IT certification:
Certified Ethical Hacker ($2,895)
Information Security Training ($3,295)
Looking this over, I see this is a reasonable and sensible collection of relatively high-value, high-demand IT certs. The prices I can see for Microsoft, CEH, and CompTIA items are kind of high, but the cybersecurity items are quite affordable.
Given a $5,000 cap on funds available to individual, qualified applicants from the nine New York State counties included under the grant, it looks like enough to cover two (or most of two) such items. I see this as a good way to interest potential candidates in career development.
I’m hopeful SUNY Delhi also provides counseling and information to help potential participants choose what’s right for them, and to help shepherd them through the training and certification process.
Frankly, I’d like to see more “market basket” programs like this one popping up all over the country. This looks good for younger people getting ready to enter the workforce, and for older workers looking to change careers. Hopefully, other regional authorities, workforce commissions, and community colleges can take a page from this book and put together similar programs of their own.