Corporate Source graduate Geoffrey Johnson at his computer that he...

Corporate Source graduate Geoffrey Johnson at his computer that he built at his home in Shinnecock Hills on Friday, March 4, 2022. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Six trainees selected by the Corporate Source, a Garden City non-profit that hires individuals with disabilities, are graduating Wednesday from the organization’s inaugural IT training program.

The graduates, all individuals with physical or developmental disabilities, applied and were accepted to participate in the 12-week program free of charge last fall. The virtual training sessions began in November and ended last month.

"I feel like my confidence is higher than it used to be," said Geoffrey Johnson, 33, of Hampton Bays, one of the graduates.

As an avid computer gamer, Johnson, who is on the autism spectrum, said he built his first computer at 13. Despite his interest in technology, Johnson said the course load for the program was no easy task.

"It was 4-hour days, Monday through Friday, then homework on the weekends," he said. "This was like taking more than a couple of college courses. It was not easy by any means."

The program is the result of a partnership between the Corporate Source and CompTIA – the Computing Technology Industry Association – an Illinois-based trade group that issues professional certifications for the IT industry.

After finishing the program and passing two exit exams, Johnson and his classmates earned their CompTIA A+ certification, an industry-recognized training certificate.

The Corporate Source hires and coaches people with disabilities to work on contracts for other companies and government agencies, usually in jobs like landscaping, janitorial services and mailroom work.

Students in the IT program were trained to analyze, troubleshoot and evaluate common technology problems, and their certification will prepare them for jobs as entry level IT specialists and tech support staff, organizers said.

"There are so many job opportunities in IT," said Kelly Quinn, chief financial officer for the Corporate Source. "The next step is to provide these participants the support they need to get them a job."

Helping disabled individuals train for the growing tech field should provide them more work opportunities, program organizers said. The unemployment rate for individuals with a disability was 10.1% in 2021, compared with 5.1% for those without disabilities, according to federal data.

Christos Morris, chief executive of eVero Corp., a Melville software developer that makes tools for organizations that provide services to the disabled, said IT needs have only grown as remote work has made businesses more reliant on technology.

"It’s a growing demand because IT is running everyone’s business," he said.

Teresa Varela of Coram, director of workforce development for CompTIA, said employers last month "advertised openings for nearly 25,000 IT support specialists and 388,000 IT jobs in total." She said the New York metro area had more than 20,000 IT job openings last month, the most in the country.

John White, another graduate, said the training has given him the tools he needs to get back into the workforce after several years of being out.

White, 55, of Jackson Heights, Queens, said he had been on disability since 2017, when an autoimmune issue forced him to leave his job as an electro-mechanical field technician.

White said he now hopes to land a job handling IT issues for a nonprofit.

"I’m very hopeful," White said. "I feel good because I think there’s a lot of positions open especially for entry level people in the IT world since the pandemic started."

Correction: An earlier version of this story characterized autism incorrectly. It is a developmental disability.

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