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This is a composite of a conversation going on at my Pleasant Valley board right now. --> Well, I just finished my preliminary application with Tampa Bay's Workforce Alliance to see if I can qualify for a Fed grant to train me and get me certified in my choice of IT categories. This grant will supposedly cover my entire training (schooling, books, materials, etc.) to achieve my goals. There was a little blurb about it in the paper today: From the Tampa Bay Times My application is pending. We'll see how this goes. ===== Well, I qualified anyway. I'm scheduled to attend the 2PM orientation on this coming Friday. ===== OK, all is set for the orientation tomorrow. I talked with a lady there this AM to get some details. There's even a little technical aptitude test administered. That ought to be interesting. I'll be there for about 2.5 hours. More info... http://www.tampatrai...ils.cfm?ID=1678 ===== OK... that was an interesting afternoon. It was a packed house. About 75 souls showed up for this seminar/orientation. I don't think they expected that many, even though you had to register to attend. They had to photocopy about 33% more document packets for the extras who showed up. This was basically a presentation by HCC and Workforce Tampa/Worknet Pinellas about the Tampa Bay Hi-Tech Program, a four year government grant program to fast-track out-of-work folks into new IT careers via certification courses. You have six options. You can only choose ONE. They are: Microsoft Technology Associate Certification: Networking Fundamentals - noncredit certification program CompTIA A+ Certification - noncredit certification program CompTIA Security+ Certification - noncredit certification program CompTIA Networking+ Certification - noncredit certification program CISCO Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) - credit and noncredit certification program Information Technology Support Specialist - credit program Regardless of which one you choose to take, the grant will cover 100% of the costs all the way through the certification phase. The noncredit cert courses are fast-track courses (8 weeks) with the express goal of getting you to pass the certification test and get you hired during or shortly after the course is completed. The credit courses are longer and focus more on the knowledge/continuing education goals; with certification and employment still a priority, though. Here's the kicker... There are limited spaces available. The term of the grant is four years, but each quarter noncredit and each semester credit course has limited student openings: about 15 students for each noncredit course and 30 students for the credit courses. They screen everyone based on their current level of knowledge and their past work experience. They will be performing the screening process for this current batch (to start classes in Jan/Feb) this weekend. We were given a skills assessment test today. It was about 35 questions (multiple guess) of very basic computer and networking knowledge. There were hardware component identification questions, basic questions about data storage methods, some questions about basic networking and network troubleshooting, etc. I believe I ACED the test, actually. It was that simple. Of the six options above, the Cisco certification is where the immediate $$$ are. They went way out on the limb with guarantees for this one, stating that 100% who passed the certification would be employed during the course or just after they actually get their certification. CCNA's are a SUPER-HOT commodity in the IT industry right now, according to an ex-Cisco employ/current instructor for HCC. CCNA is recession proof, OS platform agnostic, in demand worldwide. So, of course, the vast majority of those attending today were interested in the program that can only accommodate about 15 students max (this quarter). I put "undecided at this time" on my app at their advice because I'm unsure which of these to choose from. They said they'd know more about how to advise me after they look at my past experience/assessment score. The Cisco guy said that my 20+ years in component level electronics service would be a huge advantage for me in pursuing this certification. While that's all cool, the sad thing is I was really interested in the A+ cert. However, they tell me the CCNA is the cat's meow and worth at least 10K+ a year over an A+ salary. I'll know more what direction to take once I found out if I've been chosen as one of the lucky few. If I don't get chosen, I think I'm going to visit HCC's Student Services and find out what I can qualify for in the gov grant area regarding a standard IT course of study. Amenditman and another friend of mine have sent me information regarding these grants in the past, so I know the opportunity is there. The downside is that pursuing continuing education will take more time and I'll still have to find a job in the meantime to support myself. Optimally, I would like to qualify for this deal now, get my certification in something, get to work, and then pursue continuing education (possibly paid for by employer). Well, that's the deal. By the way, as of right now 1/1/2013 all CompTIA certs are no longer lifetime. You have to be re-certified every three years. There are three ways to recertify: 1) take the test again, 2) take a refresher CompTIA certification course), and 3) teach a certification course. Lucky custards who already had their certs were grandfathered in and have lifetime certification.