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How Has Hiring for Entry Level IT Jobs Changed in 2020?

How Has Hiring for Entry Level IT Jobs Changed in 2020?

By Mark Emery

2020 has been a year of immense change, and there’s no exception for information technology careers.

While more safely insulated from the economic fallout of the pandemic than other industries, IT has still seen its fair share of downs to go with all of its many ups.

Consider the most recent job market numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as analyzed by CompTIA:

“The tech sector recorded its second consecutive month of employment growth, adding an estimated 12,900 net new workers in both technical and non-technical positions. The IT services and custom software development category led the way in job gains … [However,] the industry’s employment growth was countered by an unexpected loss of 324,000 tech occupation jobs.”

If that latter part seems bad, here’s a little more good for you: In comparison to the national unemployment rate of 7.9%, unemployment for information technology careers is just 3.5%.

But if you’re a job seeker, these statistics don’t paint the full picture. Exactly what companies are hiring right now, and for which specific roles? Has the new emphasis on remote work changed companies’ hiring processes? Has it changed what they’re looking for in their candidates?

To get a better sense of the hiring outlook in IT right now — specifically for entry-level IT jobs — we spoke with a pair of our employer partners. Read on for their expert insight on information technology careers, delivered straight from the other side of the interview table.

Impact of Work From Home

information technology careersAngela Woehler, a Government Services Lead at Apex Systems, says entry-level information technology jobs are on the rise across multiple industries and markets.

“We’ve experienced surges within cybersecurity in industries like healthcare, government services, and financial services,” Angela says. “Clients have taken a new approach to hiring where they have flexibility in interviewing and acquiring new talent. We are on Zoom calls and video conferences. Virtual hiring fairs have become the new normal.

“We are also adjusting to an environment where working from home has been key to continuing every day activities. Think about everyone who is working remotely needing to call into a helpdesk or service desk for assistance. That brings so much opportunity for companies to onboard more entry-level talent to help with the unforeseen demand.”

The impacts of the new “work from home” normal don’t end there.

“Because employers have more flexibility, some opportunities are starting out working from home, which allows companies to look outside of just their immediate surroundings,” Angela says.

So, how should a budding IT professional adapt? Angela has advice there, too.

“It is very important to stay competitive and relevant upon entering into the IT/cybersecurity realm,” she says. “If you are provided the opportunity to obtain your certifications, then I would absolutely recommend it, especially coming into the field. They are definitely ways to gain employer interest and give them an idea of the knowledge and talent you could potentially bring to their organization.”

Certs, Certs, Certs

Francisco ArteagaFrancisco Arteaga, a recruiter at Jacobs, agrees with Angela on the importance of attaining certifications — the more advanced, the better.

“Certifications are a must and in the future CompTIA Security+ won’t be enough,” Francisco says. “They are already looking to hire people with multiple or higher-tier level certifications. IT college degrees are recommended but not required. An IT degree doesn’t get you through the door; it only makes you a little more competitive. Department of Defense clearances are more difficult to obtain since employers do not have the funding to sponsor new hires without one. Having a clearance will be a must.”

Once you get your certifications, it’s time to start applying. Like Angela, Francisco emphasised the differences in the application process compared to just a year ago. Here’s what to expect and how to approach.

“Virtual hiring and telephonic [meetings] will be the norm for interviews,” he says. “Employers are using systems in place like Indeed, LinkedIn, or company online software programs to have candidates apply to streamline applications processes and save time and cost. That means it will be more difficult to compete against others due to the fact that you are unable to advertise your full potential as during an in-person interview or hiring events. Recruiter numbers will deplete as more companies are hiring recruiters with minimal experience, and they’ll only be required to source for candidates and not necessarily recruit quality.”

Ready to Get Started?

Now that you know a little about the hiring prospects for entry-level information technology jobs, here’s a quick refresher on how to get from here to there if you have no prior experience.

Both Angela and Francisco mention certifications. ACI Learning (formerly LeaderQuest) has a course track called the Computer User Support Specialist program that focuses on preparing students to achieve the bedrock certifications upon which IT careers are built: ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+. This set of courses can be taken over a span of five weeks if you train full-time during the day or 10 weeks if you can only attend at night.

Once you’ve passed your classes, it’s time to pass your certifications and get hired. Like our team of expert course instructors, ACI Learning also offers instructor mentors to help you study the material and a dedicated Career Services team to help you land a job. More than a few of our graduates have gotten jobs after a quick phone call from Career Services to an employer. Their one-on-one counseling also includes benefits such as resume edits and interview practice.

Curious about breaking into IT and want to hear more about how ACI Learning can assist you? Fill out the form below to learn more about entry-level IT jobs and more.

How One Veteran Landed a Job in IT Just 3 Weeks After Completing Training

How One Veteran Landed a Job in IT Just 3 Weeks After Completing Training

By Mark Emery

Steffon Fisher thought he had his post-military life all figured out.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 2018, he went to school for marketing. He made plans to start his own business, and had even created a website and begun acquiring clients, when COVID-19 came along and turned the whole world upside down.

“All of the clients that I had been working with were like, ‘I can’t go through with this. I’ve gotta save as much money as possible,’” Steffon recalls. “I was like, ‘Well, this is just perfect timing.’ So it kind of just fell apart. But everything happens for a reason, I think.”

What makes Steffon, 26, say that now? Using his GI Bill to attain full funding, he enrolled at the ACI (formerly LeaderQuest) Denver Tech Center Learning Hub for IT training. Just three weeks after finishing classes — and with an ITIL certification in hand — he received an offer for a job in IT.

The role: An entry-level service desk position with a Colorado company called Astonish. It was the first step to a brand-new IT career.

“They told me it was going to take about 90 days for me to get my first job offer after classes. So three weeks was definitely not expected,” Steffon says.

“I’ve always been good with computers. That’s just something that kind of comes natural to me.”

Top-Notch Instruction

it careersSteffon still remembers the call he got from ACI Learning. He had just moved from San Jose to Colorado with his wife and son. One day the phone rang, and the word “cybersecurity” caught his attention.

“Since I have the GI bill from the military, it wasn’t really a tough decision on whether or not I was going to do it or not,” Steffon says. “So I started.”

Once in class, he was immediately impressed with the quality of the IT training.

“The instructors are really awesome, and they’ll work with you,” Steffon says. “I would touch base with them, like, “Hey, yesterday was kind of rough for me. Do you think we could go over what we talked about, on the side?’ They’ll work with you on the weekend. They’ll give you an hour-long call and go over the stuff you’re missing, or what you’re not understanding. So that was really helpful.”

That above-and-beyond level of dedication was key for Steffon. Training online at home because of COVID-19, he caught himself losing focus from time to time. Having a 7-month-old baby will do that.

But wherever he got lost, he knew he could count on the instructors to get him back on track.

“They definitely have a passion for teaching you the knowledge, which is rare,” Steffon says. “These instructors want you to learn — they’re not just doing it because it’s their job.”

Stellar IT Career Help

it trainingSo that was the learning process. But what about the whole, you know, getting-a-job process?

Here again, Steffon says ACI Learning came through with flying colors.

Shannon Travis was really helpful,” Steffon says, referring to an Employment Development Manager on the Career Services team. “She did an amazing job getting me the interview with Astonish. Most universities, they don’t even bother with employment.”

With a mere three-week turnaround after completing classes, it’s hard to argue with the results.

And Steffon is loving his new job in IT.

“I’m getting some good experience,” he says. “I get challenged on a daily basis, which is something I need in order to stay interested in a job. And the company itself is awesome. They have a lot of opportunity for growth. It’s pretty much like, if they have a new project and you let it be known that you want to work on that project, regardless of your experience they’ll let you work on it, and they’ll pay you for it.”

Another plus of Astonish: the chance to move into cybersecurity.

Steffon says he is currently working on his CompTIA Security+ certification, while going to school for a computer science degree. The next certifications he wants to achieve are CompTIA A+, Certified Network Defender (CND), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

It’s all part of what he enjoys about IT and cybersecurity — what he describes as an “act of constantly evolving” and “figuring out solutions.”

“IT definitely wasn’t in my plans,” Steffon says. “But after going through LeaderQuest and having the opportunity to take these certification exams, that’s definitely in my cards now.”

Could This Be for You?

We’ve written before about how IT can be a perfect next step for transitioning veterans, and Steffon is living proof of that. So many of the skills are transferable. Add VET TEC and other sources of funding, including for military spouses, and there’s practically no downside.

A typical course track is ACI Learning’s Computer User Support Specialist program. It can be completed in just five weeks if attending full-time during the day. If you need to take classes at night, that’s an option too. That takes 10 weeks from start to finish. Either way, graduates leave the hands-on instruction with everything they need to know in order to pass the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications — the basics for most any entry-level IT position.

And, as Steffon mentions above, you don’t have to land that entry-level job on your own. Thanks to people like Shannon Travis on ACI Learning’s Career Services team, students and graduates have a plethora of job-hunt tools at their disposal. From resume edits to interview practice, this team exists to make job candidates as prepared as possible. What’s more, they have professional connections established over years and years in the IT and cybersecurity community. Frequently, they make phone calls to employers that result in jobs for ACI Learning graduates.

Whether you’re a veteran yourself or a civilian looking to start a new career, IT is worth considering. And ACI Learning can get you the IT training you need. Fill out the form below to learn more about the opportunities to be had with IT careers.

From Soldier to Civilian: Our CSO’s Advice for Transitioning Veterans

From Soldier to Civilian: Our CSO’s Advice for Transitioning Veterans

By Mark Emery

At LeaderQuest, we write about veterans — and transitioning into the civilian world — a lot.

Just take a look at some of our recent headlines:

And that’s only in the past five months or so. There is plenty more where that came from.

So, why are we so veteran-focused? Well, we happen to think IT and cybersecurity are excellent career paths for transitioning veterans. And not only do we provide training in these fields — we can help veterans (and their spouses) secure this career training for free.

It’s reasons like this why a full three-fourths of our on-campus students are transitioning veterans. It’s no coincidence, also, that more than one-half of our employees are veterans.

soldier to civilian

That includes our new Chief Sales Officer, Thomas Katsahnias.

A former Army officer with more than four years in the service, Tom transitioned into the civilian world in 2008.

Although busy with LeaderQuest’s transformation to ACI Learning, Tom recently took time with our marketing team to elaborate on his transition from soldier to civilian.

“To be honest, I think it’s hard for everybody in their own way,” Tom says. “Anybody’s transition is a period of self discovery. You’re going from a very regimented, structured environment to a fairly unstructured one.”

“Depending on your experiences in the military, you’re going to have your own thought processes and your own way of approaching things.”

Here are some of Tom’s other insights:

On What Guided His Decisions

“When I was in the military, the job that I had that I liked the most was being a company commander. It’s very similar to running your own very small business in the construct of a much larger organization. I had a lot of fun doing that. What’s cool about the military is very few organizations will give somebody in their early 20s with next to no experience the level of responsibility that the military does. I had a lot of fun doing that. So as I was leaving the military, I was thinking to myself, I want to do something similar. And the opportunities that really stood out to me were very similar to that command position to where you’re running a business within an overarching business, which led me to Walmart, and running a Walmart Supercenter.”

READ: 7 TIPS FOR GETTING INTO IT WITH ZERO EXPERIENCE

soldier to civilianOn Using What You Learn in the Military

“What I find that the military teaches is discipline, confidence, and organization. When you’re leading people, they’re looking to you for answers. You may not always know the answers and that’s fine. But, you have to project a sense of calm and confidence or else no one’s going to follow you and chaos ensues. So that’s one of the things that you learn from the military that has served me very well. In a leadership position, people are looking to you to be that calming force and not be that person that’s freaking out and doesn’t know what to do. If you don’t know what to do, that’s fine. You just say: ‘Listen, I don’t know, but I’m going to find out, and we’re going to come back with a plan.’ Organization — that’s drilled into you from your earliest days, whether you’re going through bootcamp or officer basic course or whatever. Learning how to do multiple things at the same time, and being able to do it in an organized fashion, and synthesize information into a coherent strategy to be able to push the organization forward. The military teaches you that in all kinds of ways. That’s directly transferable to the real world. And, discipline — sticking through things when the going gets tough. Personally, I think that’s one of the reasons why I like to build or fix things, is because I learned in the military to do that. I actually have fun sticking it out and figuring out those challenges that a lot of other people just don’t do. I’m not a steady-state guy. I’m a fixer and a builder. And that’s the type of grit that you learn in the military.”

READ: 12 PROS AND CONS OF WORKING FOR A DEFENSE CONTRACTOR

On Facing Uncertainty

“Many people have no idea what you really want to do post-military. You have all of this experience, your first question is always: ‘What can I do? And where does my experience set lie?’ And that’s where some people get scared as they are not used to seeing the vast array of potential choices you have in the civilian world. In the military, you have your job specialty which leads to a specific career trajectory or track, and you need to check this box, then this box, then this box, then this box, then this box. You know exactly what you’re going to do and roughly when you will do it, for the most part, for your entire career. In the civilian world, you have the freedom of choice, but that ends up becoming very scary because there’s an infinitely wide range of choices. Working through that can be paralyzing.”

READ: DEGREES VS. CERTIFICATIONS: WHICH IS BETTER FOR AN IT CAREER?

On Soldier-to-Civilian Transition Services

“I used a military recruiting firm that is very prominent in the space. The way they work is: You prepare for a good six months before you transition, read up on business, learn how to interview, learn about the civilian world and how it’s different. And as part of that process, you go to a career conference, and they set you up with 8-10 interviews and depending on how you do in the interviews you get your choice from there as to which ones you’re really interested in.”

READ: 6 POPULAR TECH JOBS (NO DEGREE REQUIRED TO APPLY)

civilian worldOn Talking to Other Veterans

“Talk to veterans that have made the transition, including ones that held jobs in the military outside of your specific job track, someone that might’ve started as a heavy truck mechanic, but then went on to go own a bunch of McDonald’s franchise, as an example. Learn about their journey and how they made the transition. ‘How did you do this? Why did you do pursue this career choice?’ The more people you talk to, the more you’ll see what you want to do post-military life.”

READ: 9 PROS AND CONS OF BEING AN IT PROFESSIONAL

On Using Your Skills

“People coming out of the military are very qualified for many things. In a lot of cases, they don’t necessarily know what they’re qualified for, because the skill sets can be different between the military and civilian worlds. And because of that, some will pigeonhole themselves into thinking they need to do something similar to what they did in the military. But one of the great things about working at ACI Learning is that we give people the ability to get additional skills that are needed to transition into an IT job, allowing veterans to go do something that could be completely different than what they’re doing in the military and take a lot of those intangibles that they learned in the military and apply it to a completely different skill set. The key is getting the hard skills that are needed for whatever that chosen profession’s going to be. Typically, you don’t get a lot of the direct experience in the military that you’re going to need in a specific civilian job. You still have to go get the direct experience. But, because you have all the intangibles, once you get the direct experience, you’re better positioned to really grow your career very quickly.”

READ: 5 ESSENTIAL IT CERTIFICATIONS FOR DOD AND CYBERSECURITY JOBS

On Leadership

“I always tried to lead when I was in the military with a participative [approach] — I tried to solicit people’s advice and input before making decisions. That helps going into the civilian world, where you don’t have that threat of giving them an Article 15 for not following directions. The challenging piece for me was that while I thought that I led that way, there’s always this implicit threat behind whatever you say, that your instructions carry the weight of legal authority. In the civilian world, that doesn’t happen. So, there’s a switch in leadership style of trying to figure out how to create those situations where the team around you wants to do what you need them to do. Or, if you’re part of a team, how do you influence them without the direct authority to tell people what to do.”

READ: MAKING SENSE OF DOD 8570 AND 8140 FOR YOUR CYBER SECURITY CAREER

transitioning veteransOn Civilian-Life Surprises

“The military is very process-driven. It’s a series of institutions that are collectively hundreds of years old. There are a lot of institutional knowledge and processes that are built around almost everything. Once you come over to the civilian world, very little ends up being anywhere close to as organized or regimented as the military. I remember when I was at Walmart and we were going over schedules and I was talking to my HR business partner about hiring and how many people we needed. And my first thought was, ‘Well, where’s the document that says exactly how many people you’re supposed to have in every department and why?’ And I ended up asking another veteran that, and he just laughed at me. He’s like, ‘That doesn’t exist.’ In the Army, there is a document for every unit that details out exactly how many people that unit should have, what jobs/ranks there should be, and what equipment the unit should have. Business typically doesn’t work like that. It’s very nebulous. And really figuring that out for me was a bit of a shock, going straight to a leadership position, running a P&L, trying to figure out how many people am I supposed to have in this department or that department. In the civilian world, that’s part of the challenge in running a business, is figuring out what is that balance between payroll and productivity and what people do you need in what roles. There’s not a bunch of people sitting in headquarters figuring it all out for you.”

Are You a Transitioning Veteran?

If you’re getting ready to leave the service and become a civilian, chances are you have a lot of questions about your future:

  • “What should I do?”
  • “What would make me happy?”
  • “What would provide for my family?”

For anyone even remotely interested in IT and/or cybersecurity, LeaderQuest may be able to help you answer some of these questions. After all, we didn’t become a go-to resource for transitioning veterans by accident.

From how to secure government funding for training, to the specific education you need to take to get certified, to how to pass those certifications and get that job offer, LeaderQuest has every resource you need to break into IT. (And, considering the high demand for new IT workers and the handsome salaries they’re often paid, it’s a field worth breaking into.)

Either way, it never hurts to have a conversation. Fill out the form below to get started as you make the transition from soldier to civilian.

See How Many Open Cybersecurity Jobs There Are in the U.S. Right Now

See How Many Open Cybersecurity Jobs There Are in the U.S. Right Now

By Mark Emery

We yap about it all the time.

Cybersecurity is an exploding industry! Get in now! The pay is great, the possibilities endless! What are you waiting for?! Get started now!

And you know what? It’s all true.

Sometimes even this lowly blogger asks himself: What the hell am I doing writing marketing content about cybersecurity growth when I could easily get certified and experience its benefits for myself?

If I ever think of a good answer, I’ll be sure to let you know.

But back to LeaderQuest and the aforementioned yapping. We can go on and on about the 0% unemployment rate, the half a million job openings, and facts like, “the workforce must grow by 145% to meet global demand.”

But talk is tiring. Rather than continue telling you about all cybersecurity jobs available, repeating all the lines you’ve heard before, this time we’d like to show you.

Cybersecurity Openings, Everywhere You Look!

Thanks to Cyberseek.org, we can do just that. The website, which seeks to “close the cybersecurity talent gap with interactive tools and data,” has a fun, useful map showing the amount of cybersecurity job openings in all 50 states.

Guess what? There isn’t a state in the union that doesn’t have literally hundreds of openings. Most have thousands. Many are in the tens of thousands. See for yourself!

cybersecurity growth

Here are some highlights:

The top five states with the most cybersecurity openings are California (67,915), Virginia (54,432), Texas (46,279), New York (24,431), and Florida (23,629). The five states with the fewest cybersecurity openings are Wyoming (340), Vermont (431), North Dakota (622), Montana (624), and South Dakota (660).

Here’s a full rundown on the stats in table form:

cybersecurity jobs

Are you a Vermonter who assumed you’d have to move to Boston to get into cybersecurity? Hopefully after reading this you reconsider.

What Does the Future Look Like?

Now, a large quantity of jobs is one thing. But is the amount shrinking or growing?

The cybersecurity growth is undeniable.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average growth rate across all occupations is 5%. For Information Security Analysts, it’s an eye-popping 32%!

The numbers are similarly good for other cyber roles. Computer and Information Systems Managers, for instance, have a projected growth rate of 11%. For both Computer Systems Analysts and Database Administrators, it’s 9% — almost double the overall average.

With factors like automation and migration, work was already changing before. Throw in a global pandemic and the need for remote employment, and the landscape becomes that much more complicated.

But cybersecurity is one industry you can count on to be there. And in uncertain times, there’s a lot to be said for that.

OK, But How Much Money Is There In Cybersecurity?

Convinced yet? No? Well, let’s take a look at some other statistics. Financial ones.

Check out these entry-level pay rates for cyber roles from Indeed: $38.57 an hour for Project Managers, $51.86 an hour for IT Security Specialists. Extrapolate those numbers over a full year, and you get salaries of $80,225.60 and $107,868.80, respectively!

And that’s just to start. Let’s take a look at the figures later down the career path.

cybersecurity training

Mondo, too, has a breakdown of high-paying cybersecurity jobs. Here’s a look at the average salary range for six different positions:

  • Information Security Manager: $125,000 to $215,000
  • Cybersecurity Engineer: $120,000 to $200,000
  • Application Security Engineer: $120,000 to $180,000
  • Cybersecurity Analyst: $90,000 and $160,000
  • Penetration Tester (Ethical Hacker): $80,000 to $130,000
  • Network Security Engineer: $125,000 to $185,000

But again, say you’re a Vermonter or a Montanan. How useful are those numbers, when location isn’t factored in?

The folks at ZipRecruiter considered that, too. They put together handy salary figures broken down by state — a perfect complement to the above map from Cyberseek.

Among states with the highest average cybersecurity salaries, New York narrowly leads the way ($123,918), followed by Massachusetts ($122,746), Washington ($121,890), New Hampshire ($119,461), and Hawaii ($117,889).

As good as those top numbers are, the bottom ones aren’t nearly as bad as you might think. North Carolina, the lowest state on the list, still carries an average cybersecurity salary of $90,882.

Maybe this lowly blogger is biased, but who wouldn’t want to make that?

I’m Sold. How Do I Get Into Cybersecurity?

If you’ve read this far and started to evaluate your life choices, don’t worry! One of the great things about IT and cybersecurity is that it’s never too late to start down this path. Plus, cybersecurity training is relatively affordable and speedy.

At LeaderQuest, helping aspirants become professionals is what we do. From top-tier cybersecurity training with experienced instructors to effective exam prep before certification time, we’re with our students every step of the way. Even after they pass their exams and get certified, our all-star Career Services team pulls out all the stops, making every call they can, to help these qualified candidates get started in their fulfilling new careers.

The whole cybersecurity training and hiring process can happen in a matter of months. As for payment, a lot of times it’s covered for you! Whether you’re a veteran or a military spouse, or you’re unemployed or low-income, government funding options exist to get you trained at precisely zero cost.

When you factor in how easy it is to get trained, and how expansive the opportunities are once you get certified, IT/cybersecurity starts to look too good to be true. We assure you — it isn’t.

Fill out the form below to learn more cybersecurity training.

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.”

READ: 4 STUDENTS ON THE ONLINE TRAINING EXPERIENCE AT LEADERQUEST

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.

READ: HOW 3 LEADERQUEST ALUMNI FOUND WORK DESPITE COVID-19

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.

READ: FROM ‘NO GED’ TO A CAREER IN IT

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.

READ: 5 EMPLOYERS ON WHY THEY LOVE TO HIRE FROM LEADERQUEST

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.