A new apprenticeship program gives high school students the skills needed to launch a career in Information Technology (IT) and will make them employable in today's job market, an educator reports.
"Canada will be experiencing a high-tech shortage," says Manjit Mann, a teacher at Bendale Business and Technical Institute. "These students will be absorbed faster than they can imagine.
"You get hands-on experience plus the education behind it," says 18-year-old IT apprentice Tamanan Sriskantharajah.
"They will become valuable resources wherever they go. The skills they are getting are immense. They are getting high-end education at virtually no cost."
Bendale was the first school in Toronto to begin training students wanting to become IT support analysts (a recognized trade since 1995) through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.
OYAP is sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. It 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 college credits, collect a salary and receive financial assistance towards the purchase of necessary tools and clothing.
Bendale's IT support analyst program, launched early this year, has attracted students from across the city, some travelling up to four hours a day in order to jumpstart their apprenticeship. "That's a real commitment," Mann says.
"My dream is to see this program offered not just in vocational schools, but at collegiate schools as well -- We need to give students mandatory computer skills. They're going to need them."
The program teaches skills in networking, hardware repair and help desk support. Students must specialize in one of those areas as they advance through their apprenticeship.
"Most students like computers but aren't necessarily technically oriented," Mann says. "They get a good grounding and will be proficient in all three areas -- they will be a valuable asset on a daily basis. They are so capable, they can make a service call within the school."
They take online courses from Canadore College in North Bay and gain hands-on experience with Computers for Schools Ontario. The non-profit organization refurbishes computers donated by businesses and in turn donates them to schools.
"Students come in afraid to take the computers apart, but they build confidence," says Phil Aguanno, manager/instructor of the Computers for Schools lab at Bendale.
After completing their in-school training, students complete a co-op placement and return to school for continued training. For students like Tamanan Sriskantharajah, the program has allowed him to translate a hobby into a career.
"I was pretty thrilled to be accepted into the program," says Sriskantharajah, 18. "The route is all planned out for you. You're already part of the field. You get hands-on experience plus the education behind it."
After completing his first round of in-school training and a placement at Getronics Canada, an IT solutions company, Sriskantharajah has decided to become a network administrator.
"There is a good future for network administrators," Sriskantharajah says.
(Aunie Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)
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