Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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August 20, 2012

A Moving Moment

By Eric Larson

Attendees of Breakaway 2012 in Las Vegas ran into the usual suspects in Sin City, as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin (or the late Rat Pack’s best impersonators, at least) provided the final night’s entertainment.

But also making his way to the stage at Breakaway was one total newcomer to the Vegas scene. Brent Backes, a part-time National Guardsman living in Osceola, Wisconsin, stepped into the spotlight to talk about his dramatic journey from unemployment to a new career in information technology.

In early 2011, Backes was laid off from the manufacturing firm where he had worked in production for several years. Because other firms in Osceola shut down around the same time, jobs were scarce.

“It’s been a year and a half that I’ve been unemployed with a family of five trying to make ends meet,” Backes explained to the crowd, as he was being interviewed by CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux and CompTIA Board Chair Bob Godgart.

In April 2012, Backes heard from his sister about the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, a new program offered in the nearby Twin Cities through the Creating IT Futures Foundation to help unemployed individuals find a path to an IT career.

As one of 250 applicants for fewer than 20 slots in the IT-Ready class, Backes wasn’t too confident. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up — but they were up.” Learning that he’d been chosen for the class “was just fantastic.”

On June 27, 2012, after nearly eight weeks of training, Backes sat for the two-part CompTIA A+ exam. He passed both parts on the first try.

Then, just a couple weeks later, Backes received the best news yet: He had been accepted as a full-time apprentice with HealthPartners, earning an hourly wage of $15 for a six-month period.

Backes has every reason to hope that the apprenticeship will lead to permanent employment. To think his training was nearly derailed five weeks through the program, when his father passed away.

His classmates and his instructor were all astounded to see Backes show up for class the next day.

“I told my instructor that I’m here because my father would have wanted me to come back here the next day,” said Backes. “He told me, ‘All I ever wanted was for you to have a better life than me.’ And this Foundation and program has given me the opportunity to do that.” 


Backes’s story received several moments of applause as he told it. It wasn’t the most conventional story of employment success; it seems Backes had done it his way after all.