Informal IT School expands to six hubs nationally and prepares for an international franchise system

Aurel Dragan 18/10/2018 | 12:44

The need for workforce in the IT industry is immense, with estimates between 60,000 and 80,000 people still needed, above the 100,000 already working in the industry. The Informal IT School (SIIT) was founded in 2013 to prepare young people to work in various IT sectors, and they’ve already brought 3,000 people to the industry.

“Many of our students don’t even know how to present themselves in the interview. This is why we also have mentoring programs held by specialists in different companies,” says Carmen Ciulacu, site manager of the Informal IT School, Bucharest.

After five years of pioneering, the Informal IT School (SIIT), the most powerful platform for non-formal IT education, launched in Cluj, consolidates its national leadership position by diversifying the number of courses and specializations available to Romanians who want to perform in IT, regardless of their age.

Since 2013, when it was launched in response to the need for IT specialists in Cluj, the Informal IT School has succeeded in bringing together, in a short time, a community of dozens of mentors who have prepared over 3,000 students. Simple statistics show that in the over 1,500 days since its launch, the Informal IT School delivered an average of two new employees per day in the Romanian IT labor market, one of the best performing economic sectors at both the national and international levels.

“I am proud to have had the courage to start a project that supports the labor market and put the concept of non-formal education on Romanians’ mental map. At the same time, I am aware of the responsibility I have taken with my colleagues and partners, so I feel that the first five years are actually the warming-up phase for what will follow. In all these years, I have learned that when you manage to put together constructive energies for the same purpose, surely the final result will far exceed the initial expectations,” said Razvan Voica, CEO and co-founder of the Informal IT School.

The Informal IT school is probably the educational platform with the highest success rates among participants. More than 80 percent of the participants in the 27 IT courses organized by the School entered or returned to the labor market after graduation, regardless of the fields of activity they were originally in – construction, medicine, banking, acting, philosophy or even theology. More than 120 companies in Romania have become partners of the IT Informatics School as a result of the quality of their programs. Practically, the Informal IT School has become an aggregate of interests for candidates and companies.

But only 40 percent of those who apply for classes pass the selection phase. And the courses are not cheap: the price is fixed at EUR 250 per month and the final price depends on the modules they choose. The Javascript courses, for example, take the longest – around 5 months.

The minimum eligibility criteria is being over 18 years old and having a baccalaureate diploma. The diploma is required because companies will not hire anyone without it. The students’ average age is 27-28 and around 10 percent of them are over 35. They have a problem with the fact that companies are not really willing to hire people over 40, and this is something the students are told from the beginning. “But there are people wishing to learn for themselves, some of them are entrepreneurs and they just want to learn about the field and how to implement it in their business,” says Ciulacu.

Informal IT School courses are being held today in the six hubs developed at the national level in Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Iasi, Timisoara, Braşov and Craiova, under the guidance of 100 mentors, and are structured on three levels: initiation, training and IT specialization.

SIIT Bucharest started operations three years ago and the results show a healthy growth, as the capital is a pole of talent, opportunities and energy for change and evolution in IT. In the three years of its activity, the hub in Bucharest has trained more than 600 graduates.

“I am convinced that the level of performance we deliver to learners is the true key to our School’s success. From year to year, we were happy to see a doubling of the number of those enrolled in the educational programs in Bucharest, maintaining the rigorous but honest selection criteria for candidates in relation to each one’s abilities. I firmly believe that by delivering high-performance programs, the IT industry in our country has the ability to double its contribution to Romania’s GDP,” said Ciulacu.

Students have at their disposal and can choose from 27 educational programs, and after graduating from the introductory course they are counseled according to their technical and non-technical skills. They will all find their best place in the future industry. Some will continue their path to web development or programming, others to manual or automated testing.

“The education activity, in the form that the informal IT school understands it, can be considered a pioneering act, with added value for learners, their families, but also for companies in the field interested in recruiting well-trained IT enthusiasts. The positioning of the brand we have built is based on the very phrase “what you really love” and the process of student selection, the mentors’ profile and the courses chosen to be taught are in perfect agreement with it,” said Anca Rarau, the brand consultant, referring to the mission of the IT Informal School.

The strong expansion of the IT sector in Cluj and the massive demand for practical knowledge have played a decisive role in the birth of the “Informal IT School” project in 2013. Thus, the Informal IT School has made a mission to expand the paradigm of non-formal education in IT.

The good news for the “less technical” candidates is that the need for communication skills, or soft skills, is rising due to the diversity of areas where IT has penetrated. Thus, people coming from outside IT are becoming more and more valuable, bringing with them complementary expertise and a certain work discipline.

“The students also come to us for the role models, to interact with the professionals, to see how they work and talk, and not just to learn programing languages,” says Voicu, who added that they are working on a franchise system that can expand the School outside the country.

SIIT was founded five years ago in Cluj-Napoca and is present today in six locations in the country: Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Iasi, Timisoara, Brasov and Craiova with an active community of 100 mentors in large national and international IT companies.

The turnover for 2018 is close to EUR 1 million, with a profit margin of 8 percent. The number of students who finish the classes has grown over the years and in 2018 there will be between 1,200 and 1,300 graduates.

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