According to Make It Tampa Bay (https://makeittampabay.com/work-here/why/), Tampa Bay has the highest number of available jobs in the State of Florida. Even so, employers believe there is a skills-gap; students are graduating from high school/college without the proper competencies needed to fuel the Tampa Bay economy. In response to this deficit, Hillsborough Community College is partnering with the Verizon Let’s Get 2 Work program. This program offers free job skills training to HCC students, faculty and community members. Those who complete the training are eligible to be paired with a mentor, job shadow, and/or be placed in an internship with local companies.
Although still in its infancy, the program has proven very successful as evidenced by recent HCC alumna, Tatiana Gonzalez. Tatiana is the first in her family to complete high school and college. Her parents sacrificed everything and left their native country to give their family a better life in the United States. After high school, Tatiana married, had children and helped support her family by cleaning houses. She had dreams, but she pushed them aside as foolishness. Then, several years ago while walking with her husband on the USF campus where he attended college, Tatiana remembers watching students going to and from their classes and she thought to herself “surely my parents did not sacrifice everything they had, work multiple minimum wage jobs, so that I could clean houses?” At that moment Tatiana made a promise to herself that once her husband finished his degree, she would pursue her dream of a higher education. Between work and raising a family, it took Tatiana’s husband 11 years to complete his degree and then her opportunity came.
Tatiana loved working with computers and at the age of 31 in 2018, Tatiana enrolled at HCC to study computer programming and analysis. As Tatiana progressed in her studies she became concerned about how she would find employment without any on-the-job experience. She soon received an email from HCC Job Placement Assistant, William Kornegay, about the Verizon “Let’s Get 2 Work” program and it changed her life. Once she completed the program and became eligible for internships, she began interviewing. The process was slow and coupled with the pandemic, everything moved at a snail’s pace. Some companies were more responsive than others, but she never let the process get her down. Eventually, a small cyber security company, Perseus Information Security Consulting (Perseus), offered Tatiana an internship in the field of networking and cybersecurity, very different from the computer programming and analysis degree she was pursuing. However, Perseus offered to train her, and she accepted. After her internship ended, her supervisor, Bill Nelson, was so impressed with Tatiana that he offered her a full time position, which she accepted. And although Tatiana drives an hour to work each day, she says she wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Having never worked in an office before, she says she loves going to work in a supportive environment with coworkers who encourage her every step of the way.
Tatiana’s goal is to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in computer science before she turns 40. Her hope is to mentor other women, who, like her, have dreams of a better life. She credits the Verizon “Let’s Get 2 Work” program and HCC for opening a door to multitude career and personal growth opportunities.
Click here to find out more about HCC’s Information Technology program.
Click here to find out more about the Verizon “Let’s Get 2 Work” program.