On Oct. 31, in Reading, PA, 18 people graduated in a special ceremony, moving on to careers with Penske Truck Leasing’s information technology (IT) team. What made this graduation class so special, though, is the program they graduated from, and the purpose of the program.
The graduates are from the Step IT Up America program, a joint effort between Penske and UST Global, an IT services and solutions provider. The program is a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) program and adds an IT-focus as well.
The program is designed to provide “accelerated IT education and technical training” to help people move into IT careers.
“Over 80 potential associates were brought in; they took the assessment test and those who passed the assessment went on to interview [for a position in the program],” explains Mike Krut, Penske’s senior vice president of information technology. “I was really impressed [with the group].”
Krut notes that the applicants were a mix of individuals looking to change careers and those just starting out, with ages ranging from 20 to 40.
Candidates took a 2.5-hour assessment to analyze their reading, math and analytics skills levels and then proceeded to an interview. The final 18 were selected to participate in the program, which provided accelerated daily training over several months. Penske’s IT team assisted in the process.
UST Global’s program is designed to help quickly fill the 600,000-plus open IT jobs in the country and has a particular focus on recruiting females and veterans to the IT field. The Step IT Up America program was launched in 2013. The program website states that “UST Global invests in recruiting, training and employing women and veterans who typically do not have any formal technology training. The program equips graduates with technology skills to launch successful IT careers and provides companies a dynamic compliment to their workforce planning and diversity initiatives.”
Bobby Moore, chief of staff for UST Global, tells FreightWaves the program was the brainchild of CEO Sajan Pillai, who participated on a national STEM Council group. Pillai kept hearing about how the U.S. was behind the rest of the world in terms of STEM education and employee training. Since the formation of the program, more than 780 people have graduated and been placed at 36 companies, many of them Fortune 500 firms.
“The original catalyst behind the program was how we could get more women in technology,” he says, noting that at the time, only 34% of STEM employees were female. The program has since expanded and now focuses on underserved demographics, not just women.
“Penske was trying to find talent and keep it in Reading,” Moore adds. “We tried to find people who came from a different pool than your traditional computer science major.”
Penske became interested in UST Global back in the spring when April Ottey, director of corporate systems; Paul Maglionico, vice president of systems development and e-commerce; and Rohit Talwar, vice president of MIS, found a need to recruit new professionals into the IT department, but most importantly, to find people who were passionate about IT and excited to work with Penske.
Ottey says the setup of the program is beneficial to companies such as Penske Truck Leasing.
“When you get someone from college, you get what the school teaches,” she says, “but what UST Global did was they taught the ‘soft skills’ as well [like presentation skills] … so what we are getting is not just a good employee, but a great employee.”
Among the skills the students learned were the basics of computer program and computer programming languages such as Java and RPG. The training in the UST Global program is equivalent to the technical training received at a 4-year school, Krut notes, without all the general education requirements.
As mentioned before, the 18 graduates represent a diverse background. They include 4 military veterans, 6 women, 1 geologist, 1 from the world of animation, a marketing major, criminologist, math engineer, and graphic designer. They will now work within Penske’s IT department in Reading, PA, over the next 12 months, learning duties and responsibilities of their new careers. Following the trial period, Penske may extend full-time job offers to the graduates.
Moore notes that UST Global offers “off-the-shelf” trainings but will work with clients to ensure the program meets their needs.
“Java and RPG are the core standard offerings we offer to many customers, but we worked with Mike and April and [showed] our off-the-shelf program and they said, ‘no, we don’t use that, but we need this,’ so we customized the program,” he points out.
“I think it was a great partnership with UST Global,” Krut says. “They understood the problems we had in [finding and] integrating IT [employees]. It think it was a great experience.”