Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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November 20, 2013

Be an Apprentice

After performing auto body repairs for more than 20 years, Jim Osterhues suddenly found himself laid off and out of work.

It will be OK, Osterhues thought. After all, the physical nature of his work – constantly breathing paint fumes and putting pressure on his knees and back – was taking its toll, so he recognized a change was necessary. And he had significant knowledge about auto body repairs – what damage was done, what parts were needed, and how much it would cost to make a car as good as new.

So Osterhues put that first-hand experience to work by studying for and obtaining a license to work as an insurance adjuster in Minnesota.

Yet despite the fact that he knew auto body repair – probably better than the average insurance adjuster – Osterhues could not find a job anywhere.

“They said I had no experience – even though I had repaired damaged cars for 20 years,” Osterhues said. “My experience in the shop didn’t count as field experience. I couldn’t get hired.”

That was about the time when Osterhues’s unemployment counselor saw an ad for the IT-Ready Apprentice Program and passed it along to him for consideration.

The term “Apprentice” caught his eye immediately.

“By then I knew that going out and starting a new career wasn’t so easy,” he said. “Knowing the program had an apprenticeship attached to it made all the difference.”

Osterhues applied to the IT-Ready Apprentice Program and was accepted. He admits that he felt a little overwhelmed starting classes.

“I knew I had a lot to learn because all I ever did with a computer was send emails,” he said. “But I knew going into IT would pay off – because every company uses technology. You can go anywhere and do anything with IT experience.”

Osterhues enjoyed learning “hard” skills during his classroom time – such as the inner components of a computer and networking. But it was the “softer” professional skills – practicing interviewing and learning how to craft a resume – that really hit home for him.

“After finishing the course and learning the right way to put together a resume, I could look back at my old resume and understand why no one hired me,” he said.

Today, Osterhues is CompTIA A+ certified and has completed Atrion Leadership Challenge training. He is one of three IT-Ready Apprentice Program graduates working at Medica as an apprentice.

Serving about 1.5 million members, Medica is a health insurance company headquartered in Minneapolis and active in the upper Midwest. The non-profit company has a vision to become the community’s health plan of choice – trusted for its integrity, respected for its service, and admired for its commitment to innovation and efficiency.

“I have so much appreciation for everyone involved in the IT-Ready Program, and for Medica for hiring me through my apprenticeship,” he said.

As he completes his apprenticeship, Osterhues feels like there’s a world of opportunity in front of him.

“I honestly don’t know what I’ll be doing in five years – whether I’ll be in networking or security or replacing computer components,” he said. “But I am positive that I will be working in IT because I’m getting the experience I need – and I know that’s the number one thing.”