RIC is Pipeline for Year Up Job Training Program in IT

Help Desk workers -- One holds a keyboard, the other is on his cell phone and the third is holding her laptop.

These IT technicians have gone from a free job training program at Year Up to RIC Help Desk employees on their way to earning their degrees.

“Hey, I’m locked out of my computer.”

“Darn it, the system crashed and I just lost my file. How do I get it back?”

“Honest to God, the computer wasn’t working until you got here.”

That’s a day in the life of help desk employees Emily Cabral, Aidan Lowther and Pam Montes (from left to right in photo above). They are just a few of the many staff and student workers employed at the ITS Help Desk at Rhode Island College. They’re the ones you call when you’ve got computer or printer problems. And all three of these technicians got their IT training through Year Up Rhode Island.

Year Up is a 100 percent tuition-free job training program for underserved young adults who may face barriers to accessing education and job opportunities.

Enrollees must be 18-29 years old; have a high school diploma or GED; be of low-to-moderate income; and be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, DACA recipient or have an employment authorization card.

Year Up Rhode Island offers a business track, an investment track and a help desk/desktop support track. It takes a year to complete the program and students receive a stipend throughout the time they’re in training. What’s more, their course work is eligible for college credit.

Cabral and Lowther joined the help desk/desktop support program after COVID hit and classes moved online. At the time, they were sophomores at Rhode Island College – Lowther a biology major and Cabral undecided.

Montes enrolled in Year Up about six years earlier. She, too, left college (CCRI) in her sophomore year. Inspired by her sister who completed the Year Up Rhode Island program and is now director of technology for the Central Falls School District, Montes completed the help desk/desktop support program and soon after was hired full time by RIC.

The first phase of their Year Up training involved learning the ins and outs of the help desk field, such as how to diagnose and troubleshoot common hardware and software problems. They also learned important soft skills, such as critical thinking, time management and how to communicate professionally.

In the second phase of the program, they were placed in a paid internship where they applied their newly acquired skills. It was during the internship phase that Lowther and Cabral decided to return to RIC.

“I did my internship at CVS,” Lowther says. “It was a paid, contract position. I saw all these people around me – both full-time and contract employees – who had little-to-no job security when it came time for layoffs. Seeing that, I realized I needed to finish my degree.”

“My internship was at Citizens Bank in the software development department,” says Cabral. “It got me interested in going back to RIC to major in computer science. I also noticed how everyone in the software department had a degree in the field. I thought I should finish mine.”

Lowther and Cabral’s Year Up training ended in 2022 at which time they re-enrolled at RIC as computer science majors. At the same time, they were hired to work part time at RIC’s ITS Help Desk as service technicians.

“Aidan and Emily are two of the most professional students we’ve had,” says Montes. “And there’s a reason for that – they did Year Up.”

Montes herself started out as a system support technician II for RIC’s ITS Help Desk and advanced to technical support specialist I (UNIX/Networks). She soon realized she couldn’t advance further without a degree.

At age 27, Montes is currently completing a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in organizational leadership at RIC. Though she works full time, she is able to take her classes in the evening or online.

For these three students/staff members, all roads led back to Rhode Island College. With a degree, they will now be able to access even greater opportunities.

“I think IT is the best field to get into right now,” Montes adds. “It’s an amazing starting point for any career because tech is ubiquitous – it’s everywhere.”

For information on a computer science major, contact Professor Suzanne Mello-Stark at smellostark@ric.edu or visit the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems website.

For information on a major in organizational leadership, visit the Bachelor of Professional Studies website.

For information on becoming a staff member of the ITS Help Desk, email helpdesk@ric.edu or call 401-456-8803 or apply through our online job portal Handshake.