LeaderQuest Online IT Training Recognized With CompTIA Innovation Award

LeaderQuest Online IT Training Recognized With CompTIA Innovation Award

By Mark Emery

You know you did something right when the organization that creates and administers some of the most popular IT certifications on the planet recognizes your innovative approach to training in this trying time.

LeaderQuest: An ACI Learning Company experienced that honor on July 30, when CompTIA announced the IT school as one of six partners to receive their coveted Innovation Award. The tech association credited LeaderQuest for incorporating various CompTIA products “to provide IT training for students even as they were confined to home in the wake of COVID-19.”

“For many IT pros, the knowledge and skills they employ today were sparked and nurtured under the tutelage of teachers, instructors and trainers,” said Joe Padin, CompTIA’s vice president for business development. “CompTIA is pleased to celebrate these educators and the organizations that employ them for their contributions to helping millions of individuals to realize their career aspirations.”

With No Time to Waste, LeaderQuest Didn’t Hesitate

Jennifer StroblIT certifications, ACI Learning’s Director of Program Operations, said that the existing LQLive infrastructure laid the groundwork for an efficient, all-encompassing response to the coronavirus crisis.

Having offered virtual classes since 2012, LeaderQuest added an additional 164 online IT training courses this year — essentially doubling the previous offering.

“We were able to adapt quickly,” Strobl said. “We had to move everything 100% online, and that’s what happened. We’ve done this in the past when there are bad weather emergencies, those types of things. So we already knew a path forward.”

Not that the transition was entirely pain-free. Prior to 2020, virtual training existed as an alternative option to in-person training, available to anyone who might need or prefer it. Now, online has become the only option, and there are varying levels of comfort with that — for some instructors as well as students.

“There was like this stigma and fear around virtual training,” Strobl said. “So we kind of had to break down those barriers.”


Despite those obstacles, which also included procuring resources such as laptops, Strobl estimates that 90% or more of students had positive experiences with online learning.

“We got rave reviews from some students saying, ‘I didn’t have to stop learning,’ ‘The learning was just as good,’ ‘Great instructors,’” Strobl said, “And then you had a couple that were like ‘This is a lot of information to do quickly in a virtual environment.’”

For students in the latter group who had growing pains with LeaderQuest’s online IT training, Strobl said steps were taken to close any and all gaps.

“Anything that they said that they were missing from an in-classroom environment, we tried to incorporate into the online learning,” Strobl said.

Whether Student or Instructor, Everybody Wins

IT education onlineWhen compared with the “mess” of her own children’s online learning experience, Strobl said LeaderQuest’s virtual training looks that much better.

She notes that the rates at which LeaderQuest graduates passed their IT certification exams and became employed in the IT industry were both unchanged from pre-pandemic times. Considering the economic devastation of COVID-19, the latter statistic really speaks volumes.


And it’s not only students whom LeaderQuest is serving in these tough times.

“There were contract instructors that started contacting me left and right: ‘Can I teach for you?,’ ‘I lost my day job,’ ‘I need more income,’” Strobl said. “I was able to bring in a lot more instructors to help support the online classes that we were rolling out. They were incredibly grateful to be able to teach for us, knowing that really we didn’t skip a beat.”

For students, instructors, and LeaderQuest itself, online learning has been a resounding success, a win-win-win.


Perhaps the best part, with implications for the future as well as the present: online training has proven to be just as effective as in-person. Analytics from CompTIA’s CertMaster learning platform, of which LeaderQuest was an early adopter, confirm that.

“That was insightful,” Strobl says. “We could show how well students were doing in each objective of the course, because of the way they built the product.

“We did beta testing with that, and their labs. And we were able to see that online learning had no adverse effect for these students across the board. They were still learning effectively, soaking up the information, spitting out the outcomes, and then able to go into exams and employment.”

Factor in online IT training’s potential for exponentially greater reach than in-person education, and it starts to look a lot like the future in Strobl’s eyes. All of which makes LeaderQuest’s industry-recognized virtual capabilities that much more essential.

See About Online IT Training for Yourself

Are you contemplating a career change? Maybe COVID-19 has caused you to reevaluate your priorities, if it hasn’t cost you your job altogether. No matter what the circumstances, IT deserves strong consideration.

Beyond education, so much of how we live and work is moving online, and the career prospects in IT reflect that. For instance, last month the Wall Street Journal reported that, while the overall unemployment rate stood at 11.1%, for IT workers it was at just 4.3%. In many areas there aren’t enough employees for the number of open positions, despite six-figure salary potential.


LeaderQuest helps aspiring IT professionals get trained, certified, and hired in this growing, exciting industry. From top-notch instructors to our dedicated Career Services team, we provide every resource that career-starters and industry-changers need as they undertake this new journey. Want to learn more? Fill out the form below and let’s chat.

New IT Internship Program a ‘Guiding Light’ for Transitioning Veterans

New IT Internship Program a ‘Guiding Light’ for Transitioning Veterans

By Mark Emery

It’s a frustrating paradox for many entry-level job hunters: You can’t get hired without experience, but the only way to get experience is if someone hires you.

Did your head just immediately start to ache? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

it internshipScores of world-weary memes have been made lamenting the work-experience problem, which has only been exacerbated in 2020 by the virus-ravaged economy.

Fortunately, IT and cybersecurity have been relatively insulated from economic fallout, and LeaderQuest now offers a solution to the early-career conundrum. Our Jacksonville campus has instituted a formal information technology internship program, aiming to bridge the experience gap between employers and entry-level workers.

“I am super excited about this,” said Adrian Thomas, Internship Program Manager. “Our graduates are veterans transitioning into IT and are known for being accountable and dependable. We want to place them in organizations with no charge to participate.”

Promising Beginnings

it internships paidSo far, the new program has coordinated with EK3 Technologies on two paid IT internships at this moment with two more on the horizon, as well as one IT internship with the Jacksonville Urban League.

Earl Kelly, CEO of EK3 Technologies, has been more than happy with the early returns. LeaderQuest graduates Tom Heiry and Gedeon Baez, veterans of the Air Force and Navy respectively, have shined as interns.

“Both Tom and Gedeon are very hard workers,” Earl said. “They have gone above and beyond what I even thought that the program was going to be. I’m very impressed with both of them and the outcomes from both of them.”

While the information technology internship program isn’t exclusive to LeaderQuest’s veteran students, those who served are the main focus. That’s a plus to Earl, who says vets tend to be more productive and reliable than the average early-career job seeker.

“The veterans seem to have not only a sense of a work ethic, if you will, but a sense of understanding that you have to come to work everyday, understanding that you need to be on time,” Earl said. “Before, we had three people, one right after the other, that literally worked for us for four weeks and didn’t show up for at least a week of that. So I think that by hiring a veteran it’s better because they do have that sense of responsibility.”

A ‘Valuable’ Experience

information technology internshipsBut what about the LeaderQuest students themselves? The IT internship program can’t be a success if they’re not getting the skills and experience to set them up for fulfilling careers. Thankfully, according to Tom and Gedeon, that’s exactly what they’re getting with EK3 Technologies.

In a Facebook review recommending LeaderQuest, Tom — who has earned ITIL and CompTIA A+ certifications through his training — wrote that the paid internship “is providing me valuable job experience and technical skills.”

Gedeon — who has earned the ITIL, CompTIA A+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications — said that the IT internship is “going really well” and that he is grateful to LeaderQuest for “seeking out different opportunities for their students.” Gedeon and Tom started with our flagship training for career starters, the Computer User Support Specialist program.

With the grads’ six-week stints ending soon, Earl said he has some decisions to make about full-time possibilities. Regardless, he’s excited to get two more LeaderQuest students in the office for six more weeks of valuable assistance.

“It’s change, but it’s also fresh blood, a fresh set of eyes, and fresh ideas,” Earl said. “And I kind of enjoy that as well.”

Get Involved

While exclusively in Jacksonville for now, the paid IT internship program could soon expand to LeaderQuest’s other campuses in Denver, Colorado Springs, Dallas, and San Antonio. Adrian sees it as a potential “guiding light” to veterans transitioning into civilian life.

It’s merely the latest example of LeaderQuest’s robust commitment to helping job starters and career changers not only with IT education, but IT employment.

The most common training circuit, the Computer User Support Specialist program, can be completed in five weeks with full-time attendance or 10 weeks if taken part-time. It sets graduates up for ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications — the essentials at the start of any IT career.

But, as with training, you don’t have to get certified on your own or hired on your own. LeaderQuest stays with you for each of these vital steps, offering study sessions and mentoring before exams, with networking and other job-hunting help after them.

Curious about IT and want more information? Fill out the form below, and let’s chat.

5 Employers on Why They Love LeaderQuest Grads for Entry-Level I.T. Jobs

5 Employers on Why They Love LeaderQuest Grads for Entry-Level I.T. Jobs

By Mark Emery

Pandemic or no pandemic, LeaderQuest grads continue to get hired in new information technology careers.

In the last few months alone, even as the coronavirus has reared its hideous head and clamped its fangs on the economy and job market, hundreds of people we’ve trained and helped certify are now gainfully employed in entry-level I.T. jobs.

Part of that is the industry itself. Information technology was a thriving field before the pandemic struck, and it has proven to be more resilient than most in the face of COVID’s many obstacles. It makes sense — with companies increasingly operating online, I.T. pros have become the straw that stirs the drink.

But the quality of LeaderQuest grads themselves is a huge factor in our employment rate. We take tremendous pride in the training they receive during classes and the study help we make available ahead of certification exams.

Once they’re certified, it’s time to help get them hired in information technology careers — the most important (and enjoyable) step of the process for us. And fortunately, due to their hard work and positive attitudes, it’s generally not a very difficult one.

But what makes LeaderQuest grads so attractive as candidates for entry-level I.T. jobs? Rather than us trying to explain, we figured we’d ask some of the people who love to hire our graduates.

Below are quotes from recruiters at three of our employer partners. They’re folks who think well enough of LeaderQuest grads to hire them — and hire them often.

‘Our Clients Love the Enthusiasm’ — Apex Systems

entry level it jobsLeaderQuest has worked with Apex Systems in Colorado Springs on hiring for a few years now. Kyndall Smith, a delivery lead, estimates that Apex has hired 10-15 LeaderQuest grads for information technology jobs just in the past year.

“I will usually reach out to LeaderQuest when we have job openings that will allow their grads to get into the workforce to start gaining hands-on experience,” she says. “From there I’ll reach out to the grads individually to go over the job details and tell them more about our company so we can start working together.”

Kyndall says that many of Apex’s clients require certifications from candidates. She knows that LeaderQuest helps with this, and even coordinates with us on when exams are being taken so she can schedule interviews around them.

“Collectively, the grads are all very excited to join the workforce,” she says. “I can tell they all have the drive to jump in and hit the ground running, and that they want to do the best that they can in any role they get. Our clients love the enthusiasm and it’s refreshing to work with people who are excited about all of the awesome opportunities we have.”

According to Kyndall, most of the roles are entry-level I.T. jobs, such as desktop and service-desk positions, often with government clients. She says that working with LeaderQuest on filling these roles has been “absolutely amazing.”

“Very quick to respond and easy to communicate with,” she says of our staff. “I love working with people who have the same values; you can tell everyone at LeaderQuest really just wants what’s best for their graduates, and wants to help them better their lives.”

‘They Are Open to New Challenges’ — TEKsystems

information technology careersHayden Eskridge, a technical recruiter with TEKsystems in Fort Worth near our Dallas campus, has partnered with LeaderQuest for about a year, although the relationship between the two organizations goes back much further. In that year, he estimates that his company has placed at least 20 LeaderQuest grads in new information technology careers.

“[Employer Engagement Manager] Jesse DuBose always does a great job to ensure I have plenty of LQ students to speak to,” Hayden says. “Most often we start with a simple phone call, but we also attend career fairs and have students come directly into our office for meetings.”

Hayden’s favorite characteristic of LeaderQuest graduates: eagerness!

“LQ always has students hungry to break into the industry,” he says. “They are open to new challenges and are not afraid to start from the bottom.”

The “bottom” he refers to includes tier 1 help desk roles and entry-level networking positions. But from there, “the possibilities are endless.”

In filling these information technology jobs, he calls LeaderQuest his “go-to partner.”

“LeaderQuest has people on their staff that match my intensity level and sense of urgency,” Hayden says. “The LQ staff truly has their student’s best interests in mind, making them the ideal placement partner.”

‘Motivation Is One of the Traits We Value Most’ — Valdez International

Valdez Internationalinformation technology jobs is another one of our Colorado Springs employer partners. Ray Payne, a staffing coordinator there, says the relationship goes back two years.

The partnership began in 2018, when Ray met a LeaderQuest representative at a Pikes Peak Workforce Center hiring event. Ray connected us to Corey Boston, a site lead at Peterson Air Force Base.

Since then, Valdez has hired seven candidates from LeaderQuest, including Jamie West recently.

“Integrity, motivation, and humility,” Corey says, characterizing the typical LeaderQuest grad. “Coming into the environment with the desire to learn and being humble enough to really take it all in is key.”

In another word: attitude. That goes a long way with Valdez.

“Many are there because they decided to change their situation and improve themselves professionally,” Corey says. “Motivation is one of the traits we value most.”

As with any successful business relationship, the one between Valdez and LeaderQuest has been fruitful for both sides. It typifies the way we work together with all of our employer partners.

“I have enjoyed working with LeaderQuest,” Rays says. “I have attended multiple hiring events where LeaderQuest was in attendance. We would team up at those events. Any candidate that Valdez spoke with needing certifications, we would direct them towards the LeaderQuest booth. And any candidates LeaderQuest spoke with that had the certifications and I.T. background, they sent to our booth.”

‘A Passion for Technology’ & ‘Customer Care’ — Concentrix

entry level it jobsIn Jacksonville, another employer-partner relationship blossomed as a matter of proximity. Concentrix‘s office happens to be practically right across the street from our campus there.

Brooke Knighton, a senior recruiter, says the two organizations have worked together on placement for information technology jobs for three years so far.

“Members of the talent acquisition team have attended classes just to go and speak about available positions with students,” she says. “We have also attended job fairs that are set up by the career counselors. Even when we are not able to get the LeaderQuest office, Bridget Scrogham and Brian Morgan (the career counselors) will send resumes and/or let me know once their students have applied.”

Like LeaderQuest, Concentrix has made a commitment to working with veterans and their family members. That, too, has solidified the partnership.

“We find that many of the Leader Quest students have recently got into the field or they are coming out of the military and working on a new skill,” Brooke says. “Our technical role, which is entry level, is a great foot in the door to get some experience in the technical field.”

That entry-level I.T. job could lead to big things, Brooke says — and fast. According to her, 78% of management roles are hired from within the company, and upward mobility can begin as soon as 90 days after training.

What are the characteristics that set candidates apart?

“A passion for technology is one of the characteristics that we are looking for,” Brooke says. “Whether it’s an avid gamer, a tinkerer who likes to build computers, or just a person that just has to have the latest tech, that is the kind of person we are looking for. However, on the flip side, customer care is our focus at Concentrix. We are fanatical about our customers, clients, and staff. We want to make sure our staff has that same enthusiasm for taking care of the customers.”

‘LeaderQuest is a Top-Notch School’ — EVO Payment Systems

information technology careersAnother employer partner of our Dallas campus, EVO Payment Systems has kept in regular contact with LeaderQuest since 2018. In that time, they’ve hired more than 25 of our graduates!

Janice Carter, a talent acquisition associate, says job fairs play a big part in that. But even when there isn’t one, she always emails Employment Development Manager Michelle Slaughter about open positions.

Janice likes the polished products that our courses produce. Asked what makes them such appealing job candidates, she notes the “education, training and professional graduates that attend LeaderQuest.”

She also likes that some graduates do have prior experience with technical support — a big plus for EVO Payment Systems.

It all ads up to 25+ hires and counting — a testament to a flourishing business relationship.

“The LeaderQuest staff that I have worked with are excellent, top-notch representatives,” Janice says. “I really enjoy working with Michelle, Miranda Murphey, and Bob MacIntyre. The staff keeps me well-informed and their follow-through is excellent. Whenever I am networking, I always mention LeaderQuest as a top notch school.”

We Can Help You Get Hired, Too

information technology jobsIf you’re interested in I.T. and love the idea of having help breaking in, LeaderQuest might be for you.

At all five of our campuses, we have a Career Services team with their own employer-partner relationships they’ve developed over time.

Our Career Services staff are explicitly dedicated to helping grads find work. Whether it’s resume editing, interviewing practice, or, yes, the all-important phone call to a hiring manager, they’ll do whatever they can to secure that offer letter.

At LeaderQuest, we talk often about the journey from enrollment to employment. Employment is the goal that drives the I.T. pros of tomorrow forward from Day 1, and LeaderQuest doesn’t want to help out all along the way, with training and certification prep, only to watch our grads stumble at the finish line. That’s why our Career Services team is just as important to the LeaderQuest experience as our instructors are.

To learn more about how we can help you get trained, certified, and ultimately hired in a new information technology career, fill out the form below.

Online IT Training at LeaderQuest: Four Students Describe Their Experiences

Online IT Training at LeaderQuest: Four Students Describe Their Experiences

By Mark Emery

Seemingly overnight, COVID-19 came along and turned the world upside down.

To minimize its deadly impact, sports leagues shut down play, businesses closed their doors, and staying at home became the norm. Food delivery is now an essential service. Haircuts? Those will have to wait as we continue trying to stop the spread.

On top of the health impact of the pandemic, the economic impact continues to devastate. LeaderQuest has been extremely fortunate amid this overwhelming turmoil — we weren’t forced to stop what we do, we’ve just had to change the way we do it.

For a leader in IT and cyber security training, that meant shifting our in-person, hands-on education to the online format we’ve been perfecting since 2012. We might claim that “tech savvy” is our middle name, but in 2020 we’ve had to prove it.

So, what has that process looked like? Rather than describe it ourselves, we asked a handful of students what their experiences with our online IT training have been like. Scroll down for the good, the bad, and the ugly — and yes, there is a little ugly.

‘A Ray of Light at the End of the Tunnel’

online IT certificationsAriel Krug is a military vet who moved to Colorado Springs right as COVID-19 became a national crisis. She’d been applying to jobs with no luck when she discovered LeaderQuest and the opportunity to have her IT training fully funded through the VET TEC program.

“With all the business closures and then the stay-at-home order, finding a job became impossible, and my family was put into a very desperate situation. LeaderQuest became a ray of light at the end of the tunnel as it allowed us to get income we desperately needed for bills and food, due to my veteran status and utilizing veteran education benefits. [It] will also help with job placement in a job market that is currently booming. I have an interview this week, in fact, for a technical job I would never have been able to apply for and maybe get, without the help of LeaderQuest.”

Ariel is working toward her ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications, and she’s had no problem so far with doing this online.

“LeaderQuest has a very good online platform and has a very good support team, so there have been no issues. … I feel like the material is challenging, as I am very new to the IT field, but I have everything I need to study and succeed and feel as though I will definitely be able to pass my certifications.”

A big reason for her confidence has been her stellar experience with LeaderQuest’s instructors.

“All the instructors I have had so far are prior or current military [service members], so their adaptability is well above average and their teaching styles have been amazing. There has been a ton of support from the instructors as well as from LeaderQuest, and my experience so far has been very nice. … I would definitely recommend this company to other veterans to use to learn and grow in the IT field.”

‘The Instructors Outdid Themselves’

online IT training studentA former U.S. history teacher in Richmond, Va. Quentin Parham graduated from LeaderQuest’s Computer User Support Specialist program in May. Here’s what he had to say about taking our IT professional training courses online.

“The online experience due to COVID was quite different and there were some growing pains early on, but it ended up being a good experience. I myself have never been a fan of online learning because that does not suit my learning style, but given the situation in the world, I was forced to adapt and adjust to it. Having eight hours of lecture with some activities mixed in was difficult, especially when you are at home and distractions are everywhere. In being forced to take virtual classes though and completing them, my outlook on them has changed somewhat, even though in-person learning is my preferred method.”

Growing pains aside, Quentin had glowing things to say about his instructors, Rich Petti and Greg Gardner.

“[They] outdid themselves. Given a situation where they were building the plane and flying it at the same time, they both were exceptional. Both instructors found ways to make the experience enjoyable, as well as facilitate a virtual classroom that had the camaraderie of a real-life classroom. They were thorough and professional as well, and answered any questions provided to them in a quick and timely manner. They were also exceptional at providing online resources, not just through the LeaderQuest Portal but also videos from YouTube and other internet sources that would aid in explaining confusing ideas and concepts. They were both also readily available both during class and after class time.”

Asked for downsides to LeaderQuest’s IT education online, Quentin noted several challenges of learning remotely, being physically apart from instructors and classmates.

“One drawback for me is the lack of interaction with peers, and group work. We would be put in ‘breakout rooms’ to do some of the work, but it is not the same as sharing a physical space with peers and interacting with them face to face. Other drawbacks were connectivity issues experienced by both the instructor and students.”

‘I Feel Very Lucky to Be Able to Attend’

it education onlineAfter spending 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, Doug Sensenbrenner had been searching for a project management job when he noticed all the IT positions available. He chose LeaderQuest Denver for his IT professional training courses because he plans to relocate to the Mile High City from his current home in Hawaii.

Here’s what Doug had to say about experience with LeaderQuest’s IT education online with the Computer User Support Specialist program, which he’s participating in part-time over 10 weeks.

“Training online with LeaderQuest is all I know since I began my program after COVID started. Regarding my completed course (ITIL), I don’t see a need for that to be held in-person. The delivery of it was phenomenal (course resources and instruction). Despite the unfortunate circumstance of COVID, I feel very lucky to be able to attend LeaderQuest Denver.”

Doug, whose training is funded through VET TEC, says he’s been able to learn everything he’s needed to so far and that his instructors have been “superb.”

“I haven’t noticed any [drawbacks] yet. I have always been a fan of online learning. I’d imagine some may say some portions of this program are better to be attended in-person, but I haven’t realized that yet.”

A big part of the reason Doug chose LeaderQuest Denver is our Career Services team and all the professional connections they have in the business community.

“I could have chosen many other IT schools approved by the VA for VET TEC, but I chose LeaderQuest Denver strategically … By working with them, I can take advantage of their contacts with local companies in Denver for employment when I’m ready.”

‘More Convenient and Adaptable to a Working Life’

it professional training coursesJosh Botz has completed the Computer User Support Specialist, Information Security Analyst, and Network Administrator programs with LeaderQuest. Having tried both in-person and virtual learning, he definitely prefers the former.

“The campus shifted to remote learning the week after my on-campus programs ended. I did take a Certified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA) course online during that time and it was a bit challenging not having the in-person connection with the instructor or other students. During my on-campus courses, I was able to network with the instructors and my classmates much more intentionally and some great relationships developed as a result of that.”

Josh acknowledged this as a handicap of online learning that possibly can’t be fully remediated, but reiterated the point.

“The learning was adequate, although the in-person interaction does help with deeper learning. I learned what I needed to from the online courses and they were certainly more convenient and adaptable to a working life, but my preference is in-person learning for the additional opportunity to ask questions and network.”

The same goes for exam prep, which Josh likes to do in groups, sharing study habits and tips in an informal, in-person setting.

“I think that other students should be aware that it will take some extra motivation and work to study for exams when taking classes remotely.”

Despite these challenges, Josh appears satisfied overall with LeaderQuest, so much so that he “fully intends on enrolling in additional programs in the future.”

Learn More for Yourself

If you’re interested in getting into IT but put your training on hold due to COVID, we hope these stories will make you reconsider. The jobs are out there, and if you have the time and resources, there’s no better time than now to get the training and certifications you need for later.

Our Computer User Support Specialist program, mentioned repeatedly above, is our most popular offering. Whether taken full-time during the day over five weeks or part-time at night over 10 weeks, this introductory set of courses equips future IT all-stars with everything they need to break into the industry — including the knowledge to pass the all-important ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications.

Just as LeaderQuest’s instructor-mentors help students pass their exams, our Career Services extraordinaires help certified students get jobs. As Doug alluded to, their community connections are extensive. In addition to being able to put in a good word with employers, they assist with students’ resumes, cover letters, interviews, and so much more.

Of course, our staff can do a better job explaining our online IT training programs than this lowly blog writer can. Fill out the form below to get the conversation started.

College Didn’t Work Out for These Roommates. LeaderQuest Did.

College Didn’t Work Out for These Roommates. LeaderQuest Did.

By Mark Emery

It’s a path so commonplace and accepted, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the only one.

Go to college after high school. Of course. It’s just what people do. Never mind the four years you give up in time, or the tens of thousands you pay in tuition and room and board. In the long run, these are nothing concerns. Especially when you consider the higher income that a college education all but guarantees.


Actually, maybe not. Four years is a significant period of time to wait before you can start earning money. And the costs? Credit.com puts the average student loan debt at a whopping $31,172. That’s not something you can pay off overnight. If your debt is higher, which is all too possible, it may not be something you can fully pay off ever.

When you also consider that basic employment is far from guaranteed in many fields — let alone that higher income — college starts to look a lot less stable and reliable than we’re led to believe.

Bucking Tradition, Together

Roommates Michael Lim, 23, and Michael-Anthony Shipman, 25, experienced some of these drawbacks firsthand. Both of them tried the traditional college route after high school, and both of them decided it wasn’t for him.

“There’s an overemphasis in my opinion on college degrees,” Lim says. “I don’t want to downplay at all the education you get from college, the social understanding and things you learn outside the classroom. But for the price, it’s a little bloated. A little bit, in my opinion.”

Both of Lim’s parents went to college, as did all five of his siblings. But he didn’t take to his new lifestyle at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He didn’t like the massive classroom sizes, nor was he completely sure of the value of his intended computer science degree.

“It wasn’t really like, ‘Oh, should I go to college and get a degree?’ It was like, ‘When am I going to get it?’” Lim says. “For me personally, just as a life choice, I didn’t want to go to college right after high school — and it kind of showed. Getting out after a year and a half in was my way of saying, ‘Oh, I don’t think the timing is right. I don’t want to be going into this kind of intensity. I just want to figure things out for myself.’”

After Lim left, he wound up in Pittsburgh, where he met Shipman. In addition to his ongoing work with the Army National Guard, Shipman was studying game design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, which eventually shut down as part of a wave of Art Institute closings across the country.

Together with a couple other friends, the group migrated west to Aurora, Colorado. Some enrolled in a new school, but that turned out not to be exactly what they were looking for either. That’s when Shipman came across LeaderQuest’s Denver campus.

“Just from all the options and the outcomes that I could have from LeaderQuest, it was going to be better than getting a degree in college,” Shipman says. “Especially with being already in the military, having the VA benefits and already having a clearance for jobs for getting out of LeaderQuest is a huge bonus.”

Shipman — a tech guy who built his first computer five years ago — decided to give it a go, ultimately convincing Lim and their roommate Ryan Broadwater as well.

“When [Shipman] started looking into it, he was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is a really, really solid place,” says Lim, who was also attracted to the opportunity to earn college credits. “The idea of me and my two roommates going to school together, as well as getting some certifications and whatnot, it was a very enticing proposition. So it was very hard for me to turn it down.”

Hitting the Books

While Shipman was able to secure funding for his IT training based on his military experience, Lim had to take out a manageable loan. Compared to the costs of college, he was happy to do it.

“When you’re going to college, you’re spending just literally tens of thousands of dollars, every year,” Lim says. “Coming to LeaderQuest, time-wise, it’s less than a semester. And money-wise, it all just kind of made sense, like lucratively. You’re going to be making a fair amount of money coming out and you’re going into an expanding field. It just makes a lot of sense.”

Source: EducationData.org

Whereas before he was one of 300 in classes at UNC-Charlotte, with LeaderQuest Lim learned in classroom sizes of 15 or less. He called that “very refreshing” as he completed his LeaderQuest courses and went on to pass the ITIL exam as his first certification. 

Military duties related to the coronavirus, meanwhile, have kept Shipman from wrapping up his coursework just yet. But once his training is finished and his certifications are acquired, he’s looking forward to working with the Department of Defense as a civilian contractor — “to not necessarily be in uniform but work with people in uniform.”

Both Lim and Shipman are fully confident in LeaderQuest’s career services team to help them find full-time employment in IT.

“One of the best things is how ready they are to help you out,” Lim says. “When I connect with my teachers they’re like, ‘Hey, even outside of LeaderQuest, when you’re gone as an alumni, you can contact me. If you need a reference, you can contact me. If I leave LeaderQuest, you can still contact me and I’ll help you out.’ I was like, ‘Dang, these guys are just like all for me.’ It was really nice to hear that kind of encouragement from my professors. I just thought it was top tier.”

Though the young men are closer to the beginning of their professional journey in IT than the end, both feel good about the less-than-traditional route they’ve decided to pursue.

“It all worked out really well for me,” Lim says. “This is an amazing decision in my opinion. Me and my roommates, we were just like, ‘Oh, best decision of our lives, hands down.’ It just makes a lot of sense for us.”

Adds Shipman: “I think this was a great decision. I’ve never regretted doing it.”

Ready to Learn More?

As Lim points out, with LeaderQuest you can get the training you need to pass the certifications necessary for IT positions in less than a semester. Going to school at night, as he did, takes 10 weeks; if you’re able to attend classes during the day, you’ll be done in five weeks. The Computer User Support Specialist program is the most common direction for those with no experience. It prepares students for the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications that will help them successfully break into IT.

Our staff of instructors and mentors are there to help every step of the way, even after the course ends. LeaderQuest prides itself on helping students pass their certification exams, and then helping them get jobs. To that end, our career services team is tireless in their efforts to connect LQ alums to IT positions. They’re well-connected in the community, and can often put in that good word with hiring managers that moves our alumni’s resumes to the top of the pile.

Are you a high school student who feels college might not be the right fit? Could you see yourself joining the expanding field of IT and cybersecurity? Fill out the form below to get in touch with LeaderQuest and start talking options, from potentially finding funding for your training to seeing how IT certifications can build the foundation for a fulfilling career.

How 3 LeaderQuest Alumni Found Work Despite COVID-19

How 3 LeaderQuest Alumni Found Work Despite COVID-19

By Mark Emery

The economic devastation wrought by COVID-19 has been staggering.

Over 30 million Americans unemployed. Threats of a small business “die-off.” Worries of recession, plus more layoffs, furloughs, spending cuts, and hiring freezes seemingly everywhere you look.

With so many struggling, it’s easy to assume that career prospects in every field are similarly bleak. But there’s at least one sector where people are still being hired, where work is still being carried out.

That field is IT. As companies shift their operations online, the demand – the need – for trained IT professionals and the technical support they can provide has grown to all-time highs. And LeaderQuest grads are living proof. Between March and April, LQ helped place 100 of them in fulfilling new careers, bucking the difficult trends seen elsewhere.

We caught up with three of these student success stories to get the specifics of each one’s journey into IT, from having an initial interest in the industry to receiving that offer letter for a position within it.

Their experiences show that with the right assistance, reinventing yourself doesn’t have to be all that painful, even in a global pandemic.

A New Job and an Instant Promotion

Chris DeWittFor Chris DeWitt, the sheer amount of IT openings is part of what caught his attention.

“The possibilities absolutely seemed endless,” he says. “There was no shortage of positions to apply for, and that was really exciting.”

DeWitt, 44, spent the first two decades of his career in the U.S. Air Force. It’s what brought him to Colorado Springs, where he has remained with his family since retiring from the service in 2013.

A talented photographer, DeWitt went on to work in creative areas in the years that followed, until last year when a stark realization hit him.

“I kind of plateaued,” he says. “It was my dream job. But I didn’t see an opportunity for growth anymore.”

That led him to IT, which led him to LeaderQuest. After being drawn in by “a bunch of smiling faces” at a job fair, DeWitt got to know some of the Colorado Springs LQ team, including Employment Development Manager Shari Carroll and Career Training Consultant George Winn.

He was thrilled to learn that not only could LeaderQuest provide him with the IT training he sought, it could also help him secure government funding to complete that training for free.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” DeWitt says. “It almost seemed too good to be true, that VET TEC was going to pay for this and then this program was going to assist in job placement. I mean, there’s parts of that that seem too good to be true! And, thankfully, it wasn’t.”

With a plan in place, DeWitt got to work on the Computer User Support Specialist program and graduated in February. Although the coronavirus outbreak delayed his certification exam, he eventually took it and passed, gaining ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications.

While he had been applying to jobs before taking his exam, his results improved dramatically once he added the new certifications to his credentials.

“The second I said ‘I have my certification,’ my responses immediately went from maybe 25-30% to probably 90% in job applications,” he says. “I was immediately getting responses from companies that I wasn’t getting before.”

The interviews started piling up, so much so that it became a joke in the DeWitt household, how often Dad was in the office with the door closed, talking to another company about another job opportunity.

Initially aiming low because of his limited experience, DeWitt started going after positions of a slightly higher level. He ended up snagging one with Apex Systems, which hired him to be a Mobile Service Center Sr. Technician. After just one week of demonstrating the leadership and management skills he honed in the military, he was promoted to Mobile Service Center Manager.

“Here I am, after one week of work I’m talking with the company about what that (salary) increase looks like,” DeWitt says. “It was validating, because I was just so nervous about making that leap.”

Perhaps the best part: Through a contract with NORTHCOM, DeWitt and his Apex team are playing an active role in the coronavirus fight, helping with backend communications for military medical providers such as the USNS Comfort in New York and USNS Mercy in southern California.

“Those individuals are getting the devices we’re providing them, which allows them that cooperation and collaboration while still maintaining their social distancing,” DeWitt says. “Not only was I able to accept a position during these difficult times, I accepted a position where I’m supporting that effort directly.”

Being Let Go a ‘Blessing in Disguise’

Reggie LandersReggie Landers had long held an interest in IT – for most of his adult life, actually.

“I’ve been wanting to get into it,” he says. “But I had bills to pay, so I couldn’t just leave work and go to school. Because then I would be homeless.”

Landers, 39, had been employed in insurance before. He was unfortunately let go from his job, and he found it difficult to find another one of a similar stature.

Some positions he was unqualified for. Others would pay significantly less than he made before.

A father of one, Landers felt these options weren’t suitable for his circumstances. Amid decreasing responses from places he’d applied to, he vented about his growing frustrations to a friend.

“I kind of let him know the situation,” Landers says. “His girlfriend said, ‘Hey, why don’t you look into IT? They’re massively hiring. I went to this seminar and I got all this information.’ And I was like, ‘OK, cool, absolutely.’”

But the problem of affording IT training, in both money and time, still existed. Or so Landers thought, right up until he got in touch with LeaderQuest.

Because Landers was unemployed via a layoff, he qualified for a Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant through the state, explained Ken Hoerning, another Career Training Consultant in Colorado Springs.

“I sat down with Ken and, as they say, the rest is history,” Landers says.

Looking back, he thinks of losing his job as “a blessing in disguise.”

And so the training began, with Landers taking his first steps toward a new career. He proceeded through the Computer User Support Specialist program, which he called “very, very fast-paced.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has prevented him from taking his certification exams, it has not stopped him from finding a new job. Landers is now employed as a Level 2 Software Support Engineer Specialist with Tek Experts.

“It’s a right fit for someone that has no experience,” Landers says. “It’s a company that’s growing despite COVID-19, and I ended up getting hired in pretty much right away.”

How soon is right away? Landers applied to Tek Experts on Thursday, March 26. By Monday, April 20 – less than 30 days later – he was in the midst of his first day.

According to Landers, the company bills itself as a springboard to other opportunities. And he’s not the only LeaderQuest alum who’s caught on there.

In fact, from the very beginning, Hoerning pegged it as a possible landing spot for him.

“The LeaderQuest staff has been more than helpful and gracious during this process,” Landers says, “and has really been fighting for me as the student to try to make sure that everything is in place.”

Making the Jump from Teaching to IT

Jamie WestTeaching is an honorable, essential profession – but, as Jamie West learned firsthand, unfortunately its importance is often not reflected in the compensation.

A 37-year-old mother with two teenagers at home, West knew she could better support her family if she left her role as a paraeducator for preschoolers and elementary students.

“That is definitely not a lucrative job by any means,” says West, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education. “Even as a teacher, I mean, starting salary for a teacher is about 36k if you’re really lucky.”

Together with her husband Bobby, who retired from the Navy in November, West began looking into IT. It was something the couple had considered in the past, as she has two brothers who work in cybersecurity.

They started studying on their own, but found it difficult to make progress without formalized training. It was Bobby who came across LeaderQuest.

To their delight, they learned that he qualified for funding through VET TEC, and she qualified for WIOA funding with the help of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

Going from 8 am to 5 pm, five days a week, West and her husband completed the five-week course over February and the first week of March. She took the rest of March to study for her Sec+ exam, which she passed on her first try. That’s when she called Shari Carroll, the Employment Development Manager at Colorado Springs, who helped with her job search immediately.

“That was on March 27th that she reached out to Valdez,” West says. “I had an interview at noon one day and was called back the next day telling me that I had received a job. So it was a very, very quick process.”

Seemingly overnight, West had an offer letter for a change management position in her possession. Although she can’t start yet due to COVID-19 precautions being taken at Peterson Air Force Base, where the role is located, she has a salary of $51,000 a year to look forward to.

“I’ll be making twice as much as I’ve ever made,” West says. “Just starting off, the very first job that I’ve ever gotten – I don’t have any other IT experience other than what I got from LeaderQuest.”

In describing the LQ process – from recruitment and classes to mentoring, exam prep and job placement – the word West kept coming back to was “phenomenal.”

“They just help out in any way, shape or form they can, from start to finish, to teach you this stuff, then (help you) study for the certs, then take the certs, then get a job,” West says. “Through the entire process, they’re just extremely helpful and encouraging.”

Start an IT Career with Zero Experience

Work HandshakeAt LeaderQuest, the most gratifying part of the job is seeing — and frequently helping — people get hired. That starts with training, with the most common journey being the Computer User Support Specialist program. There are no prerequisites. If you have basic computer literacy, you can take this course, get your certifications, and be on your way to a new career. All in an average of just three months.

And you won’t have to find work in this new field all on your own. As the above stories show, our career services team is an energetic, well-connected bunch. From helping you craft a top-notch resume and cover letter to directly reaching out to companies on your behalf, these people are dedicated to your employment. It’s their job to get you a job — and trust us, they’re excellent at their job.

When you factor in all the funding options available — especially for veterans — LeaderQuest becomes the obvious choice for anyone looking to enter IT. If that’s you, fill out the form below so we can start a conversation about your specific career goals and how LeaderQuest can help you reach them.