An innovative apprenticeship program launched in Toronto this year gives high school students the keys to a door into a growing trade, while benefiting schools in need of computers.
Bendale Business and Technical Institute, located in central Scarborough, is the first school in Toronto to introduce students to the Information Technology Support Analyst trade through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.
| Tamanan Sriskantharaja
Information technology support analysts connect computers into a network, repair hard drives and offer computer support through help desks.
It's been a recognized trade since 1995, reports Al Binning, OYAP training consultant with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
"It's one of the 10 highest in-demand occupations in Ontario," says Bendale principal Eric Potts, noting research from Human Resources Development Canada. "The job prospects are very good."
Bendale has received financial support from the ministry to outfit a computer lab where students receive online instruction from Canadore College in North Bay.
Bendale has also partnered with Computers for Schools Ontario, a company that refurbishes computers donated by businesses. One of that company's employees is stationed at Bendale, and will teach students how to repair computers that will in turn be donated to other schools.
Fifteen students have registered in the pilot project, which is expected to earn a loyal following.
"Once it's up and running, I don't think we'll have any problems getting students to sign on. There are always students who love computers," says Potts.
Instructor Phil Aguanno trains student Tamanan Sriskantharaja in the IT Support Analyst program.
Students in the program must decide whether to specialize in hardware, networking or help desk support before heading out to co-op placements, where they follow training standards outlined in apprenticeship guidelines.
"It becomes their personal training record while they're in the workplace," Binning says. "It tracks the skills they become competent with, and they also undergo the usual classroom evaluations."
Students who began the program this semester will complete the core level of instruction next January. In order to complete certification in the trade, they must work for several years and take courses in their chosen specialty.
Like other trades, apprenticeship in this field is expected to work well for many students. "The apprenticeship model can be an effective learning model for those who like to learning by doing. They can then back up and learn the theory," Binning says.
Potts agrees. "We try to get students hooked into something they love. The younger we can do that, the better. Students set a goal and try to reach them. Even if they decide they don't want to follow a certain field, it's still a learning experience."
OYAP allows students to earn credits toward their high school diploma, while the hours they work on a job are applied to journeyperson certification in a skilled trade. Students also have a chance to earn a salary and receive financial assistance towards the purchase of necessary tools and clothing.
"Students earn credits and log hours for their apprenticeship," Potts says. "It's a two-for-one."
(Linda White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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