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DESC contributes to life-changing experience

‘Anything is possible’ for ExperienceIT graduates

By Paul Harris

ExperienceIT changed everything for Chandra Floyd. “In eight weeks I got enough knowledge to change my career and change my life,” said Floyd during the ExperienceIT graduation ceremonies on Sept, 25, at the Qube Building at Campus Martius in downtown Detroit.

Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes addresses the ExperienceIT graduates

Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation provided support services and a stipend for ExperienceIT, an IT training initiative that was originally founded by Quicken Loans, GalaxE.Solutions, Title Source, Fathead, Marketing Associates and WIN (Workforce Intelligence Network). Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE, Grand Circus, and Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications are now also partners.

According to Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation Chief Operating Officer Jose Reyes, it is the first time DESC – a Michigan Works! Agency – has supported the ExperienceIT initiative. “We realized that even though it’s a short term program, it can have a lot of impact,” Reyes said.

Floyd and 42 other members of ExperienceIT’s first class received completion certificates on Sept. 25. Twenty-five graduates have already accepted full-time positions with partner companies as job interviews continue.

Floyd, who previously worked as a systems administrator, now works at Blue Cross Blue Shield. “The process has been phenomenal,” she said. “Grand Circus and Detroit Employment Solutions were great.”

Another ExperienceIT graduate, Vaniel Abeshi, has gone from working at a garage while going to school to a job at Marketing Associates. “It has given us a future opportunity that I don’t think we’d have been able to get on our own,” Abeshi said. “ … I feel like anything is possible, at this point.”

Designed to transition students from the classroom to the workplace through real-world IT projects, mentorship and training, ExperienceIT students learn in a working environment using technologies such as .Net, Java, SQL Server, MY SQL, and PHP. Soft skills such as those related to interpersonal communication, working in teams and job interviews are also key components of the updated core focus. Classes, held at Grand Circus, run eight hours a day, five days a week over the two-month program period.

ExperienceIT graduates
The first ExperienceIT class gathered for graduation

“Detroit is being re-imagined and IT is a big part of that re-imagination,” Reyes said.

GalaxE Solutions CEO Tim Bryan talked about why technology is so important to the city. “We need a diversified economic base. We need a strong technology base,” Bryan said. “What happens when we run out of tech professionals? The business goes elsewhere.”

“For the first time ever, a group of corporations – leaders in their fields – have put together a project to respond to the needs of the field,” Bryan said. Reyes added: “With the employers at the table, they can shape what the curriculum looks like.”

Grand Circus V.P. of Operations Derek Turner said ExperienceIT’s first class not only learned enough to get jobs, but also exhibited a sense of community, a thirst for knowledge and “good old Detroit hustle”, and that those attributes will only make them more valuable to employers.