Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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May 22, 2012

Ready for Anything

Being accepted into Cincinnati’s first IT-Ready class has Tedd Covington jazzed. Covington worked with technology when he served in the Navy performing electrical work on gas turbine systems. But that was 25 years ago. After the military, he eventually found himself in the social-work field.

As funding for social service agencies has waned since the economic downturn, Covington decided to revisit his former tech career path. When Covington learned about the Creating IT Future Foundation’s free IT-Ready Apprentice Program, he took a chance and applied.

“Getting back into technology is a blessing,” said Covington. “I’m just chomping at the bit.”

Cincinnati and Minneapolis / St. Paul are the two debut locations for IT-Ready, a nonprofit program aimed at helping unemployed and under-employed individuals get started on a career in information technology (IT). A total of 24 students in the two cities make up enrollment for the Spring 2012 term, which will last the eight weeks from May 7 through June 29.

The participants — whose diverse ages range from 20s to 60s — also include a wide mix of ethnicities and backgrounds. Military veterans, downsized manufacturing workers, and former retail workers are just a few of the types of students in IT-Ready classrooms.

MinneapolisITReadyClassBrant Backes of Osceola, Wisconsin, is a student at the program’s Minneapolis / St. Paul location.
Now 34, Backes had a good job in manufacturing until his company was purchased and significantly downsized in January 2011. A specialist in the National Guard in Wisconsin, Backes has been looking for steady full-time work ever since, but has come up short.

“I feel I’ve won the lottery,” said Backes, who was one of 10 individuals accepted from more than 250 applicants to the IT-Ready program in Minneapolis / St. Paul. “This is the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Brant Backes takes in a lesson in his Minneapolis / St. Paul IT-Ready classroom.
Brant Ingalsbe, manager of IT-Ready in the Twin Cities, has observed a similar level of excitement in other members of the inaugural class.

“Some were saying it was too good to be true. They know this isn’t an opportunity that comes around for everybody,” Ingalsbe said.

Like Backes, Jarvis Madlung, 39, was working in manufacturing until his job was eliminated in early 2012. “I’ve been taking classes, but I don’t have much practical experience in IT,” said Madlung. “The apprenticeship was a big part of why I pursued this program.”

Charles Eaton, Creating IT Futures’ executive director, said an opportunity for on-the-job experience is something missing from a lot of training programs. The IT-Ready program integrates a six-month full-time apprenticeship for participants who go through the training and are able to pass the CompTIA A+ certification exam.  

“Employers get a chance to test-drive an employee who has already gone through a rigorous screening and training process,” said Eaton. “They pay $15 an hour directly to the apprentice, which is a bargain on a number of levels. At the same time, the company is giving someone a new lease on a work life. It’s definitely a win-win all around.”

Unemployed for more than a year, Melanie Gall, 36, of Cincinnati saw the IT-Ready program’s call for applications on Craigslist and applied immediately. She knows the program offers soft-skills training as well as technical training, which suits her personality.

“I’ve always been technically inclined, but I’m definitely a people-person,” she explained.

Getting into a tech-heavy field like information technology seemed daunting to Gall without something like IT-Ready.

“I couldn’t afford training and testing on my own, so this was perfect for me. It’s hard to get an entry-level position unless you have certification and experience. IT-Ready is the total package.” Gall and the other students will also benefit from one or more mentors in the IT field who can guide her and answer questions as she moves forward in her training and career.

Lisa Slutsky, who manages the IT-Ready program in Cincinnati, has observed varying degrees of computing backgrounds among the students. Still, she sees instruction moving forward at a good clip. “The student evaluations have been very positive,” she said.

The next challenge for IT-Ready’s managers will be to closely assess each student’s abilities to match them with the right employer for their six-month apprenticeship.

“Employers need someone who can perform quickly in a professional way,” said Ingalsbe. “The students have gravitated very quickly to what we are doing. These students are ready to perform.”

IT-Ready is an initiative of the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA. Employers in Cincinnati or the Twin Cities can learn more about taking on an IT-Ready apprentice for a six-month term in 2012 by visiting