Pablo Listingart moved to Canada from Argentina in 2015 after a successful career working in IT for such companies as Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. He brought with him a project he had started in his native country: free IT career training to those who may not be able to afford it.
He said he came up with the idea after seeing how much IT work was available in bigger cities in South America, but those in less urban areas seeking IT work had no access to the training needed; a problem Canada suffers from as well, he discovered.
“I decided that I wanted to give back to the society; to keep working in some way on these communities. I started thinking about how to connect these people and create a community that will help people find jobs while helping companies to get the talent that they need,” said Listingart in a phone interview with IT World Canada. “I wanted to do more. I wanted to multiply the help that I was getting. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I just teach someone how to do these professions and hopefully to people get jobs?’ then I’ll be happy.”
The success of those courses in Argentina led to him continuing the project after leaving Argentina due to instability and the hopes of providing his family a better life.
After arriving in Canada, Listingart established his non-profit organization, comIT, in 2016. Through his organization, he has been able to provide free three-month training courses which can be accessed by simply applying on the website. Potential participants need only answer a few questions.
“We want to understand if these are people who can’t afford other types of training, but also, we want to be sure that these are people who are looking for a career in IT,” he said. “Truth to be told, there are many people who just want to learn how to code because somebody told them that it looks good on your resume. This is a chance for people who can’t afford other types of training.”
Listingart added that the mass volumes of applications they receive make it quite difficult to narrow down; noting that for the 150 spots they had available for five courses, they received around 750 applications.
One of the successful applicants, Fadhia Arocha, not only successfully completed the course, but was hired as a junior developer within a few days of completing the course, and attributes their success to the course from comIT, while encouraging others who may think they want to pursue a career in IT to look into taking the course.
“Everybody can do it if they want… to consider IT as their career. It’s a very good course to start,” said Arocha in an interview. “They prepare you for the labor market.”
The course is customized for each city it runs in to meet the needs of the IT market in the area. Listingart said this is done through a research period in which his team touches base with employment firms and scours job boards and similar employment resources to pinpoint exactly what sort of skills are in demand in the area.
“That’s probably one of the strengths of the program is that we adapt to the labor market that is constantly changing,” said Listingart. “Let’s say that there are seven companies that are looking for full-stack Java developers. Our next step is to understand what does it mean to be a full-stack Java developer and we teach based on that. So every three months every time that we are going to open a new course, we do all that research and we define what we are going to be teaching.”
This entire initiative was all made possible thanks to his connections at the tech giants he had worked for in South America. Very soon after establishing his organization in Canada, Listingart was put in contact with Google Canada who managed to arrange to have him establish his first course in Kitchener. This first course was successful and the initiative has snowballed from there; since growing into Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and other cities in Central Canada such as Calgary.
Since then, the success of the graduating students has continued, with around 70 per cent of students who graduated receiving positions in their field, according to Listingart.
In fact, the program has been so successful that it caught the attention of the Canadian federal government who recently decided to provide funding to allow for further expansion across Canada including Western Canada.