Unlike some high-school classmates — who knew with absolute certainty that they wanted to attend college or learn a trade — Trent Robbins wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after graduation.
It is why, perhaps, his career path took a circuitous route from electrical technician to convenience store shift leader to bartending in the time since Robbins earned his diploma.
“Straight out of high school, when everyone else was planning for college, I never really knew,” Robbins said. “There was nothing that was, ‘Oh, this is definitely me.’”
While he didn’t know exactly how he wanted to make his living, Robbins did know what he enjoyed doing — tinkering with technology, even to the point of building his own computers at home.
“I’ve always been tech savvy,” he said. “I use computers a lot and have a real interest in them.”
So when Robbins saw an advertisement on Indeed about the free IT-Ready career program, he was intrigued.
“It seemed like something right up my alley,” he said.
A program of Creating IT Futures, IT-Ready is an eight-week, full-time course that prepares participants to pass the CompTIA A+ certification exam, and equips them with the knowledge and skills to secure an entry-level position in IT. Creating IT Futures is a workplace charity founded by CompTIA, the leading IT industry trade association.
Supported by grants and donations, IT-Ready is offered free of charge to students, and the program actively seeks to recruit participants who are displaced workers or under-employed, or who are women, veterans and/or people of color.
On the technical side, Robbins learned such things as laptop and desktop assembly, how to install and configure different operating systems, and how to troubleshoot computers and devices such as smart phones and printers.
On the softer professional skills front, Robbins learned career-enhancing attributes such as how to interview effectively, communicate clearly and work well with others, and how to craft a professional-looking resume.
“It seemed like a ‘too good to be true’ type of deal. I went into it with an open mind, but I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest,” Robbins said. “IT-Ready overwhelmed me. There was a lot of information, and they were trying to get us ready for the certification exam. It definitely was a great experience, and not one I was expecting.”
Robbins graduated from the Edina, MN, program in October 2017 armed with his CompTIA A+ certification.
Robbins said his IT-Ready experience prepared him well for his work at Boonya.
“I don’t know if I would have even tried this because I wasn’t sure how I felt about a help-desk position before IT-Ready,” he said. “I assumed a help-desk position would be tedious, spending all your time on the phone talking to anybody and everybody, and it’s not. IT-Ready showed me the career possibilities offered with a help-desk role, including specialized IT work. I might still have gotten into the IT field, but it would have been much harder to get in the door without the certification and job experience.”
Robbins recently was moved into a permanent, full-time position at Boonya, ahead of the anticipated schedule. He plans to take advantage of a professional development benefit offered to IT-Ready alumni — that being the ability to access CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certification materials and exams for free after graduating from the program.
“I’m extremely happy,” he said. “This was definitely a big career change, and definitely changed a big part of my life, getting it all together. I never have a moment at work when I am watching the clock and feeling like time is dragging out. Now it’s more like, ‘Holy cow, where did the time go?!’”