By Tanner Yea
As our world evolves technologically, the skills we need to succeed evolve too. It is no longer enough to have a general education – you need skills in communication, computers, programs and the latest cutting-edge technology. However, colleges are sometimes behind on their curricula, and those in need often don’t have the resources to compete in these fast moving fields.
The Invictus Knowledge Institute hopes that it can alleviate some of these worries in the Gulf Coast as it readies its first classes in September. Vickie Patterson is the founder and CEO of the Institute, and she found inspiration for the start-up fairly close to home.
“I was born in Pensacola but currently live in Austin, though a lot of my family still lives here. I grew up in pretty poor conditions and got out of them, but when I came back to visit I saw most of my family hadn’t,” said Patterson. “Many of them don’t have the skills to compete in today’s economy.”
This led Patterson to want to start mentoring both her family and others in the skills sets that many employers are looking for – things like the latest computing methods and simple communication skills. “We want to help give people the light at the end of the tunnel and help them on every step of the way.”
Patterson said that what separates Invictus from other technical workshops or schools is that they intend to lead students through every step of the process – from learning soft communication skills and basic computer technology, to advanced concepts like cloud computing, all the way through job help, internship placement and other aid. Their target for job placement by their third year is for 85 percent of students to have employment related to their training.
“Not many other organizations or schools follow through with their students,” said David Costales, the Institute’s Director of Technology Education. “Traditional degrees and training force you into a tunnel where you can only go towards certain careers. We want to provide options.”
The actual teaching portion that the Institute offers will be based around building blocks, which are discrete pieces for each training type that are customized by skill level, experience and computer knowledge. Students will have a career and aptitude test that will place them in the level appropriate to them. Communication and basic computer skills will always be on offer, but the first classes in September will focus on cloud computing – a typical training track is set to last no longer than a year.
“We have three targets: the underprivileged who want to learn, those who want to brush up on their skills, and businesses who want to train their employees,” said Patterson. Invictus is partnering itself with local businesses for internship placement in order to guarantee a rapid turnaround, and also secure sources of expertise and other resources. They’ve also officially partnered themselves with Pathways for Change, a local non-profit dedicated to helping the underprivileged through addiction treatment, family support and other programs.
While Patterson promotes college education, she says traditional university settings don’t provide everything: curriculum boards take long periods of time to alter their courses, and by that time the technology or methods are outdated or being phased out. Invictus will have a rotating and ever evolving curricula that changes with the industry.
Another issue is the reliance on pre-recorded classes, which are often ineffective and hard to pay attention to. Patterson said any online classes would either be live or active workshops – absolutely no pre-recording for later viewing.
“There is a huge technical skill gap between America and the rest of the world, because the skill set keeps evolving,” said Patterson. One focus she wants to bring to Pensacola is high-performance computer training for supercomputers such as the IBM Roadrunner or the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Jaguar. Patterson’s 16-year history with IBM will help bring that expertise to the area.
Invictus will also be serving as more than an educational center. Costales said they will also be forming a research arm of the Institute for differing tech projects. Their first proposed project is integrating Pepper, a prototype companion robot from SoftBanks Robotics, with IBM’s Watson to serve as a teaching assistant to be tested in local classrooms. “We have full support from IBM, as well as help from UWF and the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition,” said Patterson.
Samantha Weaver, the Director of Communications at Invictus, said the Institute is non-profit, focusing only on the project and helping others.
“We are still a start-up, though,” said Weaver. “We are actively looking for sponsors for the Institute. We need hardware for classrooms and people or companies that could sponsor events or scholarships. We also need people who would offer internships, or just any person who is willing to lend their expertise and knowledge on the subjects we cover.”
Patterson said that despite offers to spread Invictus to other locations, the Institute will stay local to the Pensacola area. “It means we don’t have to relocate, and it’s great timing for the tech industry in Pensacola.”
Invictus is currently located in the Pathways for Change building, but they plan to open at the cowork@nnex at 13 North Palafox Place. The first classes will be held in September. A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll. For more information on the Invictus Knowledge Institute, visit invictuski.com or send an email to email@example.com.