Our Charitable Choices feature this week is on ComIT! ComIT is a tech-teaching charity that helps provide the skills and training necessary for those who are looking to start jobs in IT. The classes are taught by IT professionals to provide industry leading techniques and knowledge. We spoke to founder, Pablo Listingart to learn more.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
ComIT is a charity that trains adults in need of assistance to overcome employment barriers and obtain jobs in the IT labour market.
Our mission is to democratize education and address unemployment by providing IT courses and employment assistance in software development and other information technology (IT) related professions at no financial cost to the student.
Our vision is to democratize access to IT education, promoting access to value-added jobs for people who can’t otherwise access quality education.
What problem does it aim to solve?
We target the skills gap in the Canadian IT market by providing 100% scholarships for training to people in need, focusing on the tools and languages required by local companies, as well as on much needed soft skills.
When did you start/join it?
I created a similar charity back in 2011 in Buenos Aires, where I’m from, and a second charity here in Canada, in 2016.
What made you want to get involved?
I grew up in a low income neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, watching my parents struggling to provide for our family while growing in their careers, being self-made professionals. After years working for a number of companies, I wanted to give back to society by helping remove the barriers that can stand in the way for those wanting to upgrade or gain skills. I’ve seen great people all across Canada with the same struggle I faced, so I decided to give back to the country that took in me and my family.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I decided to start ComIT I had two fears. The first was that it was an impossible task to start because my network was nonexistent in Canada, since I had just moved from Argentina, and because I learned soon after arriving that doors only open when you know someone who will open it for you.
But on the other side I felt that if I managed to get my foot in the door, this was going to grow exponentially, which was scary for me. There are so many talented people in need of a first chance and so many companies in need of talent, that if I managed to start, it could only go up.
Luckily, I’m not a person who is scared of a fight. So I found my way to start in Kitchener in 2017 a first pilot, and the rest has been constant learning and growth.
How has it changed since?
It’s been 3 years. From that first pilot in Kitchener in 2017 with Communitech and Google we grew to run programs in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and Kitchener. We have helped hundreds of people to land jobs. We have companies asking for our grads’ resumes every week. I feel very lucky to be able to give back to our wonderful country. This project has grown beyond my wildest expectations and keeps growing and helping more people fulfill their dreams.
What more needs to be done?
A big part of my work involves “evangelizing” the labour market. That means letting companies know that talent comes from everywhere. You can find talented people from any background, with no experience, and they can perform even better than other expert professionals. You can find immigrants who now work “survival jobs” to just get by, while they have years of professional experience and expertise in their home countries.
This is a big task – promoting a change of paradigm in the way we evaluate talent, in the way we look for our team members. I believe there is a lot of work to be done to democratize opportunities. Because in the world of the future we will need every talented individual we can find. So we need to be better at finding and training them.
How can our readers help?
There are so many ways to help. There are probably even ways that we can’t think of, so we are always open to listen.
So far, we have volunteers teaching soft skills, we have software developers volunteering their time to teach specific topics during the course, or at meetups outside the course, for our grads. There are people and companies providing the funding needed (donations) to make this happen. Anyone willing to help either with donations or volunteering their time, or with new ideas, they are more than welcome to contact us, and the easiest way is usually through our website or social media.
Do you have any events coming up?
We have multiple programs currently running in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton, and others coming to Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon in February. During the year we’ll add many more programs in the cities mentioned.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I work closely with great non-profits in the IT sector, like Rainforest or Platform.