Foundation Grant Provides Funds for Industry Certifications

Governor Kay Ivey’s 2018 “Success Plus” initiative, designed to add half a million highly skilled employees to Alabama’s workforce by 2025, includes providing Alabama workers with training leading to industry recognized certifications and credentials. J. F. Ingram State Technical College students are contributing to that goal by earning industry certifications.

Industry-recognized certifications help job seekers showcase their skills. Rather than simply listing the skill on a resume’ or job search portfolio, the certification provides independent, third-party verification from a nationally recognized professional organization.

For students graduating from J. F. Ingram State Technical College, industry certification is a valuable tool they can use to overcome barriers to employment posed by prior incarceration.

ISTC offers a variety of industry certifications and credentials to students enrolled in career technical training, including a series from Microsoft known as Microsoft Office Professional or MOS.

ISTC Office Administration instructor Valerie Pittman said the College selected the MOS credential because it resonates with employers. “Nearly every business uses some part of the Microsoft platform,’ she explained. “Employers familiar with the MOS certification know that students must invest serious time into learning these skills.”

Like many credentials, the MOS certifications come with a fairly hefty price tag, especially for students who have no resources. “It’s difficult when a student can’t earn a credential that would help them secure a good job simply because they don’t have the resources to pay for the testing,” said ISTC president Annette Funderburk. “Fortunately, the ISTC Foundation board has really embraced the idea of making resources available for our graduates to obtain credentials.”

Funderburk said the foundation regularly pursues grant funds specifically to offset costs associated with certification testing. In 2019 one of those grant applications yielded an award of $9,800 from Central Alabama Community Foundation. 

Students enrolled in Pittman’s Office Administration program were the first to take advantage of the CACF grant funds, earning 32 MOS credentials to date. 

Pittman created a “MOS Wall of Fame” in her classroom to recognize student achievement in earning the credentials and as a motivating factor for other students. “In the beginning, some students felt that they lacked the skills to earn the certifications,” she explained. “Seeing other student’s success helped build their confidence.”

Pittman said the wall led to some impromptu peer mentoring as well. “New students would ask those who had earned certifications for advice, in turn they received information and encouragement.”

While some of Pittman’s students are continuing to add credentials to their portfolio, others have completed their program of study and are using the skills they learned on the job. Together, all of the students are helping fulfill the CACF mission to create a better quality of life for those who live and work in the River Region. 

Photo: Students in Ms. Pittman’s Office Administration program pose in front of the ‘MOS Wall of Fame’; the wall recognizes students who have obtained industry certifications.