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NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea Joins NYCHA residents who completed an IT training intensive. (Photo by LETICIA BARBOZA)
NYCHA Residents on the Road to a Career in IT

Cheers rang out for eight young residents at a NYCHA Board meeting on Feb. 15 when an initiative was approved that made their employment at NYCHA and training at Columbia University possible.

The residents, turned part-time workers, are now among 23 young people employed as consultants, and are lending their expertise in technology to NYCHA and other major employers while attending technology training classes at Columbia University for a total of 16 months. Their specialized training will lead to a certificate in computer technology support.      

The pioneering training program was developed at NYCHA by the Information Technology Department, in conjunction with the Office of Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES), and with assistance from the Office of Public and Private Partnerships. The goal of the program is to increase the number and quality of Section 3 opportunities [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – mandated resident job training].     

Almost 400 young residents, between the ages of 18 – 24, were initially recruited by REES to participate in a six-week job pre-certification process conducted by the non-profit group, Workforce Opportunity Services. Only the top students were selected to participate in the full 16-month training program that includes both the technical and soft skills necessary to succeed in the corporate work environment. “Residents often don’t have the skills needed by IT vendors to be hired for Sections 3,” said IT Project Manager Diane Chehab. “Atti [Acting NYCHA General Manager, Atefeh Riazi] insisted that we find a way to prepare residents for IT employment opportunities, so we had to try something new. The skills they will have are in demand not just at NYCHA but everywhere.”      

The training at Columbia University consists of helpdesk support for Siebel and Maximo - two major computer systems used by NYCHA - as well as a mentoring component, and business writing courses. Upon completion of the program, “NYCHA is looking forward to hiring the resident's full time,” said Acting General Manager Riazi, who inspired and oversaw development of the technology training initiative.

“This program is the culmination of the Board’s commitment to creating employment development opportunities for residents,” NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea declared at the meeting, where two of the residents in the program expressed their appreciation. “This is an incredible program that leverages the dollars that we put out to make sure they have a broader impact.”

Participation in the program is making a difference for 23-year-old Victoria Vasquez, a resident of Vladeck Houses, who said, “The program not only allows us to know about the IT field but also about ourselves. With mentoring, business writing, and customer support classes, we are being groomed into becoming an asset for any company. I am so grateful.”             

Fellow student David Price, 24, of Jackie Robinson Houses remarked, “Throughout the last six months, I have had the opportunity to develop a variety of IT skills… But I believe the most important skill is handling the unique responsibility that comes with being a student in this program.” Realizing the commitment of NYCHA employees who made the program possible, Mr. Price added, “Your dedication, passion, and hope have enabled me to be here today.”

By Howard Silver
February 15, 2012