Leyden students offered certification

More than a dozen students in Leyden High School District 212 have found employment in the computer field thanks to earning certification while in high school.

“Thirteen students who got A+ certified, half of them got jobs as a result of the certification,” said Tony Pecucci, a business education teacher.

It all started in the 2012 school year when the district issued laptop computers to each of its 3,400 students. The district also created technical support internship courses in which students would pair or advise on computers.

Those students also chose an area of study. Among the options were coding, programming, creating an app for mobile devices and web design.

A number of students chose to study for certification in different topics including Microsoft Office, databases and what’s called A+ certification.

“A+ shows you have basic knowledge of hardware, software and networking,” Pecucci said.

Students study online and in small groups for several months before taking an exam. In the 2013-2014 school year, about 95 students earned A+ certification. Among them was Simon Perez, who graduated from West Leyden in May.

“I’ve always been that tech guy for my friends and family,” Perez said. “I get calls almost every day. ‘I broke my iPod, can you fix it?’ That’s what got me into TSI, it’s what I was already doing. “

Perez studied for A+ certification for four months and passed the exam in early May. He then posted his resume on job-hunting websites including Monster.com and Dice.com.

“By the next day I had a bunch of calls from recruiters asking when I graduated from high school and when I was certified,” Perez said.

He had 11 interviews over the next two months with several resulting in job offers. Ultimately he took a job with Catamaran, a pharmaceutical corporation based in Schaumburg. He and his co-workers assist more than 5,000 employees with technical issues.

“(Catamaran) would pay half my college, it’s a good pay rate, a bunch of discounts and they said at six to 12 months I could move up,” Perez said.

Earned A+ certification was what got him employment.

“I was told in the interview that without A+ I wouldn’t have been offered an interview,” Perez said.

Reid Szafraniec took part in a pilot course at West Leyden, where he earned A+ certification before graduating in May 2012.

“(A+) shows you have the knowledge to troubleshoot and repair computers,” Szafraniec said.

After graduation he found work as technician at Best Buy in Melrose Park. He worked there for three months, and then was offered a job as a technician at the Microsoft store in Oak Brook.

“Even when I was (at Best Buy), when they look for people, if you don’t have A+, they don’t interview you,” Szafraniec said.

Szafraniec works full time and also attends DeVry College part time.

Samantha Velazquez also found work as a technician at a Best Buy shortly after she graduated in December 2013. While applying, she got a chance to talk to other candidates who were older and had associates degrees in programming or computer science. Velazquez, however, had experience.

“They lacked customer service and selling skills,” Velazquez said. “In TSI, we had to work with the person — this is how much you pay for fixing damage.”

Velazquez was offered “six or seven” jobs but turned down others that wanted her full-time. A full-time student at Triton College, she chose part-time employment with Best Buy.

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