Brandon Butts got a break when he was 12 years old — working as an apprentice in a computer repair shop.
Months later, a promised job never materialized. But his experience at the repair shop set him on a path toward becoming a successful businessman with his own repair shop, Anything Computers, 38501 Fifth Ave., in Zephyrhills.
Now, 16 years after his youthful apprenticeship, the 28-year-old Butts wants to pay it forward.
He wants to give other computer geeks an opportunity to learn skills to either land a job at his shop or to work somewhere else in the IT or technology industries.
At the very least, they’ll have a chance to walk away with a wealth of computer knowledge.
When Butts was an apprentice, he did everything from mopping floors to fixing computers. He didn’t get the job he had hoped for, but he said the experience was important.
“It kind of mapped what I am today. Without the apprenticeship, I wouldn’t be what I am today,” Butts said.
He wants to open a similar door of opportunity for today’s youth.
He’s reaching out to local high school students who want to become interns.
Butts and his employees will train the interns, who will provide free diagnosis and repairs on computers.
To build up an inventory of computers to use in the program, Butts invites people from the community to bring in computers that need a repair.
The labor to repair the computer is free, but patrons must pay for any necessary software or parts, Butts said.
Butts plans to take on about three interns at a time for 90 to 120 days of training.
He’s looking for interns who are at least 13 years old, but will consider younger applicants.
“I’ve known 10-year-olds who can build their own computer and are mature enough,” Butts said.
The first graduate of his training program — 18-year-old Pierce McMenamin — landed a part-time job at Anything Computers after learning the basics of computer repairs during a summer internship.
“I never knew how to do any of this stuff. Now it feels awesome because I have knowledge,” said McMenamin, a senior at Pasco High School.
Learning how to remove a computer virus or how to respond when a computer crashes weren’t part of the learning curve at high school, McMenamin said.
The 18-year-old said he wound up in the internship program partly because he was looking for a summer job and party because his dad and Butts are friends.
A little more than a week ago, a new intern arrived.
Zephyrhills resident Jesse McGee, 24, an engineering student at St. Petersburg College, said he’s a “little techie at heart.”
No matter what job he holds in the future, McGee said he knows that computer and technology skills are essential.
“This is how it’s going to be from here on out. I might as well learn.”
Schedules for interns can be flexible, as the students must juggle schoolwork and the apprenticeship.
Butt said almost 80 percent of computer troubles the shop encounters are related to viruses. Sometimes a computer needs a tune-up. Other times a system must be rebuilt from scratch.
“We’ve seen almost every problem under the sun,” Butts says. “I want to build up the interns and keep them here. But no matter what the job market, they’ll have a skill.”
As a youngster, Butts was interested in computers but wasn’t certain of a career. His apprenticeship led to a job at another computer repair shop and eventually working with computers became a full-time gig.
Butts opened his first shop in 2009 on Main Street in the midst of the country’s downward economic spiral. The shop survived, and three years later he relocated to Fifth Avenue.
“I wanted to be on Fifth Avenue, the main part of downtown,” Butts said. “It’s classic.”
While looking to give young people new opportunities, Butts also is looking toward expanding his shop in Zephyrhills into a franchise, and to market socially responsible mobile applications to a national audience.
One of his patented devices, known as Quiet Zone, is a mobile application marketed to establishments such as movie theaters, churches and schools that have a need to silence cellphones.
His other patented device, DriveTAB, can be installed in vehicles to prevent texting while driving.
Butts said he’s proud of his accomplishments, but he noted, “A lot of people weren’t as lucky as I was.”
He hopes his future graduates will find their own path to success with the skills they learn at Anything Computers.
For more information about this internship program, contact Anything Computers at (813) 364-1737, or visit MainStreetComputerShop.com.
Published January 21, 2015