YWCA Web Design Course Attracts Mothers Seeking Career Change

When Anita Perkins, 60, received an email in December 2020 about a free YWCA web design course for women of color, she tried to get her daughter involved.

“But the more I listened to the initial orientation, [the more] I took an interest, and she didn’t,” Perkins said.

So that winter at YW Tech Lab, Perkins took her first web development class, feeling encouraged by the presence of other students she could relate to.

“There were more women in my age bracket also taking the course,” she said.

Just over two years later, Perkins is pursuing a certificate in web development at Oakton Community College while continuing to work in the insurance industry.

The YW Tech Lab offers a free, virtual 18-week web design course that has been successful in attracting mothers 35 and older looking for a career change, according to Kristin Drake, Workforce Development Coordinator. work at the Evanston YWCA Chapter.

“Women interested in learning to code for internships, entry levels [or for other levels of] employment” might find value in the program, Drake said, adding that the class is open to anyone. “We are suitable for everyone. We are not just for women.

The program, a partnership between YWCA Evanston/Northshore and Oakton Community College, offers a range of support for students. The YWCA is one month into its fourth cohort with 17 members.

Origins of the program

In its first cohort in January 2021, many participants were people who had lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Enrollment in each successive cohort has varied from 8 to 25 members.

YWCA introduced the program to its sites across the United States in the summer of 2020, after the success of a similar program at a YWCA in Madison, Wisconsin caught the eye of a Google investor. Funding supported the program at five locations, including the Evanston chapter.

The free 18-week program is equivalent to 11 hours of virtual instruction per week, with an additional 20 hours of weekly homework. It focuses on two main classes: Web Page Development, which covers HTML and CSS, and Advanced Page Development, which expands on the first class to teach students how to create interactions and additional functionality on web pages. .

There is also a career development component where students can network and attend an industry panel and guest lectures, as well as interview practice sessions and a coaching session. mock interview. The YWCA also offers assistance from the Women in Tech Council, a role model council that serves as entry points for YW Tech Lab graduates to gain entry-level developer positions. The Women in Tech Council includes board members from companies such as Google, US Foods, Robert Bosch and NextGroup.

Tech Lab offers Perkins a new career opportunity

Around the time the YW Tech Lab was preparing to accept its first cohort of students, Perkins wanted to change the direction of his career. However, she wasn’t sure which path she would take. She told the panel that she was looking for something that “created a passion in her.”

Perkins was intrigued after listening to Tech Lab guidance and seeing examples of “what you can do” with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. She was particularly convinced to sign up because it was free, online, and suited her work schedule.

“Before taking the course, I had no knowledge of web development,” she said. “Hearing the words ‘web development’, I had no knowledge or interest, or, you know, even [thought] to continue this.

Perkins quickly discovered that she enjoyed the creative process and was inspired by the potential of “where you could learn that skill” of web design. After completing both classes, doing some research, and receiving encouragement from her teacher, she decided she was just getting started.

“I decided to pursue my web development certificate, which I am doing now.”

The program offers “enveloping” supports

According to Drake, the program is attractive because of the technology’s global reach and because it provides training for a job-rich IT industry. Additionally, the program offers coding instructions and a variety of wraparound media.

If a student encounters any obstacle preventing them from completing the program, the Women’s Y is ready to help.

“We provide laptops to people who need them. [them]. We try to work with people around child care [and] transportation,” Drake said. The YWCA has helped students with gas funds and also helped students get out of abusive situations through its expertise as a domestic violence organization.

“It was more than these technical skills and learning through technology. It was about supporting the individual as a whole person,” Drake said.

Once a cohort has completed the program, the Y attempts to follow people every three months for a year after graduation, contacting them through surveys, emails and ‘phone calls.

“We always provide leads for all of our graduates,” Drake said.

And after?

Perkins said those interested in the program should give it a try, even if they’re worried about coding. She said the teachers are patient and available for individual instruction.

“Everyone has fears or worries, but don’t let that stop you,” she said.

Right now, she wants website design to be her sideline and focuses on growing her client base. When Perkins retires, she wants to transition to using her technical skills full-time.

“They say, just follow your passion, and everything will come. And, it seems to be happening.

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