Verizon Skill Forward helps delivery workers in Texas get started with IT

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Crystal Morris is a Jr. Full Stack Java Developer in Verizon’s Global Technology Solutions (GTS) division. Photo credit: Michael Cirlos

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By: Kathleen Kilpatrick

Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Crystal Morris was fired from her job as a parcel delivery person. But instead of sulking, she saw it as an opportunity to upskill and finally get into the tech field. She found the Verizon SkillForward program and embarked on a journey that would change her life.

Verizon Skill Forward is a free virtual boot camp providing technical and soft skills training for high-demand technology careers. And it was just the help Morris needed to finally have a rewarding career and income from years of minimum-wage jobs.

“So much stress is falling off my shoulders now,” says the mother of five from Arlington, Texas. “Being able to pay the bills without breaking a sweat is kind of surreal.”

Crystal Morris sits on a park bench with a computer
Crystal Morris learned code and new social skills through Verizon Skill Forward. Photo credit: Michael Cirlos

Tech skills required

As technology continues to disrupt today’s workforce, many U.S. workers like Morris need to be reskilled and upskilled to remain competitive and avoid job displacement. Verizon Skill Forward is part of the company’s $44 million employee commitment to prepare 500,000 people for the jobs of the future and a key initiative as part of Citizen Verizon’s responsible business plan to move the world forward for all.

Verizon Skill Forward participants can choose from a range of 10-15 week programs including: Cybersecurity Analyst, Digital Executive Assistant, IT Support Specialist, Junior Web Developer, Junior Cloud Practitioner, Digital Marketing Analyst or Junior Full Stack Java Developer – which Morris opted for.

Through the daily 9-5 training, Morris was able to deepen her knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL and Spring Boot. She also received soft skills training, career coaching and peer support, which she felt were the missing element to landing a job in IT.

Crystal Morris walks through the park
Morris earned an associate’s degree in web development in 2013, but says her limited people skills kept her from pursuing a career in tech. Photo credit: Michael Cirlos

A transformation of soft skills

Morris knew her hard work at Verizon Skill Forward was paying off after she finally made it through an interview without breaking down in tears.

“Even if I don’t get the job, this was certainly a successful interview for me,” Morris shared in a LinkedIn post.

Morris says she has long struggled with anxiety and a crippling fear of failure. She was passionate about technology but felt a career in this field was out of reach.

After completing the Verizon Skill Forward program, Morris had the skills to overcome her fears and land a new job.

In June 2021, she was hired as a Jr. Full Stack Java Developer in the Verizon Thrive Apprenticeship Program. Morris now works with the billing team at Verizon’s Global Technology Solutions (GTS) division, where she’s tasked with searching databases to identify errors in the data and patterns in the errors. “I’m the first step in debugging,” says Morris.

Crystal Morris looks at a phone next to a river
The support Morris received at Verizon Skill Forward was life changing. Photo credit: Michael Cirlos

Invaluable support

Equally valuable was the positive interactions and ongoing encouragement she received from the other members of her training group.

“I was able to talk about my weaknesses and other people were like, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with that, too,'” says Morris. “Nobody judged me, nobody laughed. Everyone cheered me on.”

That support, she says, has helped her regain her confidence.

“It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to do things wrong. I’ve never felt that before,” she says. “Now I’m like, ‘Hey, I don’t understand.'”

Armed with these new skills, Morris has a restored sense of purpose in her job and life.

“I see programming as a form of practical art—creating tools that are aesthetic and useful,” says Morris. “Being creative and useful is my main reason to wake up in the morning.”

Desk with four monitors on
Morris now works from the comfort of his own home. Credit: Crystal Morris

Verizon SkillForward is a partnership with non-profit organizations Generation USA that aims to close the opportunity gap for American workers and expand access to digital skills for tech careers. Some graduates will be invited to participate Verizon Thrive Apprenticeship Program. Apprentices work for Verizon managers while also receiving one-on-one coaching and continuing education through a partnership with them multiverse.

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