Editor’s Note: This article was originally published online on Laurel Ridge Community College’s website. You can see the original article here.
Aaron Winfree has turned to Laurel Ridge Community College several times when he’s needed to upskill. He’s earned an associate degree and multiple credentials from the college and is on his way to earning a career studies certificate and a second degree.
“Most people who have as much education as me are called doctors or engineers,” joked Winfree.
Trainings that lead to a job
Between January and August 2022, Winfree the entire CompTIA program – IT Fundamentals, A+, Network+ and Security+.
Today, he works as a service technician at TeamLogicIT, which is owned by Ken Blackwell, an adjunct information technology professor at Laurel Ridge whose illustrious career includes several years as the chief technology officer at Dell Software Group.
“It’s a good place to start my IT career,” said Winfree, who lives in Front Royal. “It’s like a new puzzle every day. It’s always satisfying when you solve it.”
Before a career in IT
Prior to launching his IT studies, Winfree earned his CDL through Laurel Ridge and worked as a truck driver for about five years. However, a desire to spend more time with his daughter motivated his career change, and he decided to pursue his long-held interest in computers.
“When I was going to college the first go-around, I should’ve probably majored in it,” he noted.
Instead, he earned a science degree from Laurel Ridge in 2013, and then a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from American Public University in Charles Town, W.Va.
Third time’s a charm
For his third go-around at Laurel Ridge, Winfree was able to get FastForward and FANTIC grant funding to pay for his classes. He liked being able to earn credentials at his own pace, and enjoyed his instructors, especially Marc Anderson and Rafael Caballero.
“All of the teachers were really good,” Winfree said. “Life changes, and we as people need to learn how to adapt. At the college, the ability is there for one to do such things. Is it easy? No, but if you put the work in, you can learn to make the change you want. Luckily, the staff is here to help you achieve your goals. Because of the great instructors and workers in the program, in addition to their support, I have gained competency in my desired field and am able to pursue the career I chose.”
Never stop learning
And, even though he is happy in his new job, Winfree continues to attend classes at Laurel Ridge. He is currently working on a career studies certificate in networking.
“I will use that towards my associate degree in computer science or IT,” said Winfree. “In five years, I would like to be doing something with network administration, work as a network architect or in penetration testing.”
You can learn more about IT programs at Laurel Ridge by visiting laurelridge.edu/IT.
Are you inspired to earn an IT credential? See what short-term programs are offered nearest you by talking with a career coach at your local community college. Get started today: https://fastforwardva.org/contact-us/.