For more than a decade, Eduardo Castaneda had a goal of earning certifications that would allow him to pursue a career in information technology. Like many people, though, Eduardo found it challenging and unaffordable to work and go to school full-time. After working in both warehousing and retail for many years, Eduardo was laid off. After attending a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program (WIOA) orientation session at the Near West American Job Center in Chicago’s Pilsen community, it seemed like a great opportunity for Eduardo to fulfil his goal of pursuing a career in IT.

“Well from my perspective, technology is something that can really open up possibilities to people. It can reach them no matter where they are in the world, it can give them opportunities they’ve never had. I wanted to be someone who helped enable other people,” Eduardo said, “We’re all about connectivity and making the world a smaller.”

With the support of his career coach, Coral Duarte, Eduardo researched the IT industry and visited training schools to see which would be the best. After a decade of planning, he took extra care in landing on his final decision of enrolling in Able’s IT Career Lab program.

He not only found a program that would help him earn certifications from Cisco and Microsoft, he also found a support network in the staff and students: “On the first day of class everyone was welcoming and everyone was positive, everyone was there to see you succeed. From the instructor [Leslie Lundberg] to [Program Manager] Donna Claxton, everyone there set you up to succeed,” Eduardo said.

In fact, Eduardo was part of an informal study group of six students who helped one another from the start of class and afterward when they all began to connect with new careers in IT. “One thing that really helped was even though IT Career Lab was great, the material is pretty intensive, so we formed a little study group,” Eduardo said, “Our study group was absolutely invaluable; without it we wouldn’t have been able to get the certifications.”

And certifications there were! Eduardo earned his Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Those certifications proved to be the winning combination for Eduardo, he found a full-time job as a Support Operations Specialist at Cisco!