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Grant Will Help IT Students and Alumni Pay for Certification Exams

Gateway to Innovation Giveback Award presentation

Darwyn Woodhouse accepted the promise colleges give to everyone who chooses to become a student: If you graduate, your life will be better.

You’ll have more employment opportunities. You’ll make more money. You’ll be more stable than if you don’t earn credentials.

A single father who earned a help desk/end-use support certificate in December 2020 from St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, Woodhouse found that his education wasn’t enough.

“I was looking for IT positions once I got my certification, but I couldn’t get any jobs because I didn’t have any experience,” he said.

He heard the same refrains over and over: We like you, but… We’d hire you, but… We appreciate you coming in, but...

Woodhouse, 32, fell into the same trap that many STLCC alumni who graduate from an information technology program. They have the knowledge, but not the experience. It’s an issue for which Phyllis Davis, associate professor and assistant department chair for computer and information technology, believes the College has found some help.

In August, STLCC accepted a $14,500 grant at the Gateway to Innovation’s 2022 Giveback Awards Presentation. The school plans to use that money to help students – both recent graduates and current students, who are considered disadvantaged or minority – prepare and take industry-standard certifications that make them more employable.

Darwyn Woodhouse“Typically, their last semester or so, they want to start trying to take their industry certifications,” Davis said. “But these certifications start at $250. By their last semester, students don’t have the financial resources to pay for certifications.”

STLCC has found that many graduates of its programs don’t take the certification exams because they can’t afford the practice work or the exams themselves. For many, that money, which starts at $250 and goes into the thousands, is what they need for a car payment or food or rent.

It’s just not always feasible.

Davis hopes the grant money will allow STLCC to help 25 to 30 students/alumni prepare for exams in:

  • CompTia A+
  • CompTia Security Plus
  • CCNA – Networking

The industry-standard certifications illustrate more than a technical understanding about a subject. There are hands-on components before a student can earn the certificates, which provide a leg up when seeking a job because employers know a candidate has done some of the work expected of them.

“It will be very valuable,” said Woodhouse. “A lot of positions I applied for, if I would have had the certifications, I would have had the job.”

Woodhouse worked as a security guard for two years after earning his certification at STLCC. The College then hired him to work in the IT department at Forest Park.

“If the students get those certifications right as they’re trying to hit the workforce, they’re pretty much guaranteed jobs,” Woodhouse said.

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