Asked how his life has improved since he graduated from IT-Ready in 2012, and Brant C. Backes quickly cites several ways:
- At work, he has been promoted three times in three years.
- After a lifetime of driving used cars, he finally got to buy one that was brand new.
- And just two years after launching his tech career, he and his wife purchased their first home.
“IT-Ready changed my life,” Backes said.
In fact, IT-Ready so dramatically changed the trajectory of Backes’s life that he willingly has become its informal ambassador — touting its benefits in an article that ran in the Star-Tribune newspaper, encouraging others to contribute to the nonprofit program in a LinkedIn article he authored and sharing his story through a YouTube video.
Backes had been out of work for nearly two years when he learned about IT-Ready in 2012. The manufacturer for which he worked for a decade shut down right after another large company in town carried out mass layoffs, flooding his community with job seekers.
“I couldn’t find a job,” he said. “Any available jobs in the area were immediately taken. At that point, I had no prospects and didn’t know where to turn.”
Backes was a member of the National Guard. With money running out and bills piling up, he and his wife seriously considered the option of him enrolling in full-time active duty. It was then that Backes heard about IT-Ready.
“I researched the program but found very little on it since it was brand new,” he said, as Creating IT Futures just had launched the program that year. “The one thing that did catch my eye was the program was tied to CompTIA, which I was very familiar with. I checked out the details and found that what they were offering was exactly what I was looking for. They were going to provide me training, help me get my CompTIA A+ certification, and help get my foot in the door with a paid internship.”
A program — and a plan
IT-Ready, a program of Creating IT Futures, provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT education and training free of charge to admitted students. IT-Ready targets people typically under-represented in the tech industry, including displaced or underemployed workers, ethnic minorities and women. Creating IT Futures is a nonprofit IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA.
During their training, IT-Ready students learn a wide range of hardware and software skills, including how to build a computer from parts, install new applications, troubleshoot problems, and set up and manage networks.
IT-Ready participants also cover critical professional comportment skills, such as workplace etiquette, communication, customer service and job interviewing. At the end of their classroom training, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam.
Like so many other IT-Ready students, Backes found the soft professional skills training just as useful as the harder technical skills training.
“I learned soft skills that I use every single day,” he said. “The soft skills prepared me to work with upset customers; I’m able to diffuse the situation. I’ve also brushed up on my technical skills and my troubleshooting skills. I find myself determining root causes to issues much more quickly than normal. I’m also able to teach others this skill.”
Following his graduation from IT-Ready and gaining his CompTIA A+ certification, Backes accepted a position with HealthPartners, a nonprofit, integrated healthcare system in Minnesota.
A clear path forward
Since joining HealthPartners in 2012, Backes has been promoted three times and has reached the top level for his department as a desktop analyst principle.
His upwardly mobile career has provided his family with financial stability, Backes said. Even more importantly, it has provided him with work he finds personally fulfilling and looks forward to doing each day.
“I would like to continue on my path to learn more about computers and technology,” he said. “I would like to learn more about scripting and automating technologies. I’m setting goals to get more certifications that will lead to a successful career.”