Growing up in a working-class family in Smalltown, Iowa — as he calls it — William Krajicek Jr. found satisfaction working with his hands.
“I worked in a lot of different fields — manufacturing, distribution,” he said. “Whether it was fulfilling orders using heavy equipment or building house-sized coolers, there was a sense of progression and accomplishment. And it gave me a chance to meet a lot of great, hard-working people.”
On the flip side, Krajicek said, such jobs were low paying and labor intensive.
“They barely paid the bills and weren't really intellectually engaging,” he said.
With the bad outweighing the good, Krajicek frequently found himself on the CareerBuilder website, looking for better opportunities. He was attracted to IT and considered himself pretty capable when it came to computers and technology, but without the necessary education or credentials, he wasn’t able to land an interview.
“Working on computers has been a hobby of mine, and I was always the go-to guy whenever friends or family needed help with their computers,” he said. “I went to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, but after two years, I had to quit because of finances. So I was stuck with what was essentially useless knowledge for the jobs I was working while being told I was under-qualified for the jobs I wanted.”
That’s about when Krajicek spotted the IT-Ready ad on CareerBuilder. Its promise of well-rounded education and training for an entry-level IT position — culminating with highly respected CompTIA A+ certification — sounded to Krajicek like exactly what he needed.
“After several unsuccessful attempts to get my foot in the door for an IT job, I decided to give it a try,” he said.
Krajicek applied and was accepted into IT-Ready in Omaha, NE. IT-Ready is an intensive, eight-week IT education and training program offered by the Creating IT Futures Foundation. Offered completely free of charge by experienced IT instructors in a classroom setting, IT-Ready teaches students skills that equip them for beginning careers in the IT industry — including building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems and setting up and managing networks. Students also learn softer professional skills such as communication, customer service and job interviewing.
IT-Ready targets under-employed and displaced workers, as well as individuals under-represented in the IT industry, including women, veterans, their spouses and their caregivers, and ethnic minorities.
At the end of the program, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, after which they can qualify for a six-month paid apprenticeship with a local company in the role of help-desk or technical support. Internships often lead to permanent, full-time employment.
IT-Ready is offered in Minneapolis / St. Paul by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA. It’s also offered in permanent sites in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Dallas; and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, in partnership with the non-profit organization, Per Scholas, and in temporary, “pop up” locations in Omaha, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.
Krajicek, 25, says that he quickly discovered that despite being the go-to guy in his family for computer problems, he had a lot to learn.
“The biggest thing the program showed me was how little I knew and how important it is to keep learning and growing with the IT industry as it changes,” he said. “From day one, it was made clear to us that IT-Ready was simply a springboard from which we could get our careers started. We shouldn’t consider it the end all, be all.”
And for someone comfortable working with his hands, Krajicek said he found IT-Ready’s emphasis on communication skills enlightening and informative. “As someone who had never worked in an office environment — and could sometimes spend an entire workday not even saying one word — I found that it gave me much-needed push outside of my comfort zone,” he said.
Krajicek said another unintended consequence of enrolling in IT-Ready was finding himself among friends.
“The camaraderie in the program was really something special,” he said. “There was a wide range of skill levels and all of us who were a bit more experienced than the rest were more than willing to help those who were struggling. Our instructor, Adam Turner, kept everything structured, helped us push through content quickly, but was always ready to slow down and explain things.”
Another unexpected IT-Ready benefit? The free continuing education for graduates.
“I just earned my certification in CompTIA Network+ and plan to continue training for additional certifications,” Krajicek said. Following his graduation from IT-Ready, Krajicek accepted a position as a help-desk engineer with Computer Systems Inc., a managed service provider in West Omaha that serves the role of IT department for contracting businesses.
“It’s been quite the experience, because the issues we tackle seem to be a bit more complex than what you'd expect from a typical level 1 support position,” he said. “It's given me a chance to help people in the best way I know how, by resolving their computer issues. The work environment is great and my supervisor, Justin, has been a fantastic mentor.”
For now, Krajicek says he’s practicing what he learned in IT-Ready — that is, growing and adapting to keep pace with the ever-changing IT industry.
“There’s no doubt, I’d love to stay in IT, maybe work my up to network engineer or do something in security,” he said. “I’m not sure yet. There are so many possibilities in this industry.”
As for IT-Ready, Krajicek says he can’t praise it enough. Besides being gainfully employed in a job he enjoys, he recently was able to move out of his parents’ home and into a place of his own. “This program changed my life in almost every way,” he said.