TalentReady initiative expands to help more local students prepare for in-demand careers
In the past few years, students from several local schools have benefited from a regional workforce development initiative enabling them to get industry-recognized certifications in high-demand, well-paying technology fields. Now, thanks to an additional $5.3 million investment by JPMorgan Chase, the initiative is expanding over the next three years to ensure more students, particularly from underserved communities, get work-based learning experiences like internships and capstone projects in technology and other high-growth industries like healthcare and building trades.
The TalentReady initiative, launched in 2018 by the Greater Washington Partnership and Education Strategy Group with support from JPMorgan Chase, has to date launched or expanded 19 tech-related career pathways and helped over 25,000 students throughout Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, according to a Nov. 30 joint press release.
Some of those students were from Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) South County High School, Hayfield Secondary School and Edison High School, according to a spokesperson from JPMorgan Chase. All of them earned an IT specialist certification that was paid for through a TalentReady grant.
One of the Hayfield students, a senior named Elianna Ortiz, earned her IT specialist certification in cybersecurity last June after taking a school-based cybersecurity fundamentals class and studying for the online test. She credited the certification with helping her land a prestigious, year-long paid internship that otherwise would have been unattainable for her. After graduating, she hopes to major in cybersecurity at Purdue University and pursue a career in that field.
“I would strongly recommend this program to students because there are so many advantages to having this certification,” said Ortiz. “Earning the certification demonstrates a comprehensive understanding that can open up new opportunities both academically and professionally.”
Hayfield graduate Justin Hagen also earned a cybersecurity specialty certification and expects it will help in his future career after he graduates with a degree in electrical engineering from George Mason University.
“I plan to enter the field of satellite development, in which I will use my cybersecurity understanding and electrical engineering degree to develop satellite architecture that serves research and science objectives, but also meets cybersecurity needs to protect mission data,” said Hagen.
Besides helping students, the next phase of the TalentReady initiative will focus on engaging and strengthening collaboration among employers and education leaders in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. Business teacher Andrea Wells from Hayfield, who taught the cybersecurity fundamentals class, said she benefited from TalentReady’s Tech Fellows professional development program, which has helped her become a better instructor and make students aware of and excited about opportunities in high-growth career fields.
“My experience showed me how to help students not only on the technical side of my class but how I can help prepare and become a champion of the great classes that our local community colleges offer,” said Wells. “We need more of these opportunities for teachers to learn the in-demand skills we want our students to have.”
Earlier this year, the Fairfax County School Board and Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) presented the Greater Washington Partnership with a 2023 VSBA Business Honor Roll award for exceptional support of FCPS through the TalentReady initiative.
Fairfax County School Board Member Karen Corbett Sanders, who represents the Mount Vernon District, said that as board chair in 2018, she was pleased about the partnership with TalentReady and that it exceeded her expectations.
"Career and technical education courses allow our students to gain skills and explore job opportunities while in high school," said Corbett Sanders. "This is especially important for students who may not have exposure to these opportunities in their own communities."