By Colette Panchot
Information technology expert and community leader Neelima Parasker had an epiphany when she was speaking to a class of high school students about career opportunities. When she asked them, ‘How many of you know someone who works in Information Technology?’ no one responded affirmatively. That day, she vowed to create job opportunities for diverse talent in technology and engineering.
She founded Overland Park-based SnapIT Solutions to provide training for youth and adults in fundamental and core concepts in Information Technology (IT) and to provide corporate clients with technology solutions like web or mobile application development, cybersecurity, and more.
The company identifies its students through workforce agencies in eight states, including Missouri and Kansas. Workforce agency participants who are unemployed or underemployed, and who meet certain income guidelines, are eligible. The partnerships help agencies meet their requirements for workforce development and help students discover better job opportunities than they may have found on their own.
“We bring tech talent into the IT industry from underrepresented and underserved populations,” says Parasker, President and Chief Executive Officer of SnapIT Solutions. The graduates of the program include youth, adults who want to work from home, military veterans, and people with disabilities. Other students are professionals seeking a career change or university students who want additional marketable skills.
Parasker says SnapIT Solutions is unique within the hi-tech industry because it combines training and hiring within one company. After providing intensive training and paid internships, it hires high-performing graduates of its program, unlike other certified training institutes or placement agencies.
“We did not formulate the same hiring practices that have been dictated by this industry for the past 30 years. We lead with training and end with talent getting into the market,” says Parasker, who serves on the KansasWorks State Workforce Board and is an Innovator in Residence with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
When Parasker started her company in 2015, four years of college or four years of IT experience were required by employers. “Now I am happy to note that people with one to two years of experience in high-demand skills, especially coding, are getting six-figure salaries.” She adds that employers in the Midwest have been slower to make this adjustment than those on the coasts.
Many of the company’s courses are taught by working professionals who graduated from SnapIT Solutions’ program and became certified instructors. Students choose from a variety of formats, including live online, a hybrid of online and in-person, or completely self-paced online courses. All courses are certified by the Kansas Board of Regents.
Judy L. Gibson brings a bachelor’s degree and 25 years of professional experience to her position as Certified Lead Instructor in project management and agile product development. Like many other licensed instructors at SnapIT Solutions, she received training there. Gibson’s 12 years of service on the Ethics Commission for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, also influences her teaching style.
Getting an IT student ‘job-ready’ in one to two years takes cooperation among state and federal governmental agencies, as well as the private sector. The process works like this: Students from an affiliated workforce training program are screened by SnapIT Solutions. If accepted, they pay for three months of intensive training (tuition scholarships may be available), followed by a four-month paid internship. Then they begin working on team projects from companies that are clients of SnapIT Solutions, including industries such as healthcare, transportation, and retail. Program graduates receive a free laptop so they can keep honing their skills.
“IT is a constant journey of learning and growing,” says Parasker. Her company’s alumni program is an ongoing source of support, retraining, and networking. Its testing center also helps its students and employees gain and update their credentials.
Parasker has received multiple awards and national media recognition for her industry leadership, but she says she is most proud of the repeat business from corporate clients who are served by SnapIT Solutions graduates who are now her employees: “We are a technology company that not only provides training but produces people who are producing technology products that are best in class.”
The company currently has 53 full-time employees, not including contractors and apprentices. In addition to its Overland Park headquarters, it has three branches in Kansas City, Mo., Topeka, and Wichita. Information on the company can be found at www.snapit.solutions.