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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
How do I restart my career in a new country?
It's a common dilemma for the 200,000 immigrants who settle in Canada every year, many of whom are educated and have good skills to offer. But without "Canadian experience," a lot of employers seemingly will not give professionally trained immigrants a chance to prove themselves.
The Computer Programmer program is 60 weeks of intensive study in mainframe and microcomputer programming. With its three-month field placement, it can be a fast-track to a new career.

When Olivia Pesayco arrived in Canada two years ago with her husband, she had a plan to get herself on the right track. While equipped with a degree in computer science from her native Philippines, the 31-year-old knew she would require Canadian credentials to help open some doors.

"The first thing I did was find a good school. I wanted a shorter course where I could upgrade my skills quickly," she recalls. Pesayco came to Centennial College, where she sat down with a professor and reviewed her options.

The college's Computer Programmer diploma program was recommended to her, an intensive 60-week program that immerses students in programming languages for both mainframe and desktop computers. Pesayco even had some of her university credits recognized for advanced standing, reducing her course load.

"I learned a lot in systems analysis and design. It was all very helpful, and the concepts I learned can be applied to my everyday function," Pesayco says. She liked the fact that the class sizes were small, typically 20 to 25 students, which made it easier to get individual attention from teachers.

Another appealing feature for Pesayco was the three-month work placement in the final semester. Centennial arranged for Pesayco to meet with prospective employers, and she was selected by Scotiabank to work in their Security Operations Services department.

"The first month is mostly on-the-job training, you learn how things are done in that particular workplace," Pesayco says.

"One week before my placement at Scotiabank was finished, my superior asked me if I would like to take a full-time contract position."

Pesayco was delighted and said yes, earning the title of Security and Change Co-ordinator. Today, she is involved in maintaining security accesses to the bank's network.

Centennial faculty member Mohamed Khan says Pesayco's story is indicative of the experience most graduates of the Computer Programmer program have.
  • Centennial's Computer Programmer is a unique hybrid program that is 60 consecutive weeks in length with an ongoing review process to maintain its relevance to the industry.
  • Students acquire hands-on experience in project work involving systems analysis, databases, web, client server with current technologies: .Net, Websphere, Oracle, Java, Rational Rose.
  • Centennial's professors have extensive business and academic experience.
  • Class of 2003 graduates reported an average starting salary of $33,000.

  • "There are jobs in information technology out there," Khan says, countering the notion that IT careers are drying up.

    "Many software development jobs have moved offshore, but maintenance and support of the infrastructure in the web and client server systems, as well as business processes, will continue to be done locally."

    Because it's short and intensive, Centennial's Computer Programmer program attracts a lot of mature students with bachelor and masters degrees, or people looking to make a career change.

    Khan recalls a woman with a degree in archeology for the University of Toronto who took the program and is now one of the top performers at EDS; a former CBC journalist graduated and now works for American Express.

    The program has benefited from extensive retooling, Khan says, with more emphasis on systems analysis, databases, programming and web interfaces, and the seamless integration of these technologies.

    "The program is more in line with what's happening in the industry."

    Khan notes that while the majority of students are older, the program is open to students fresh out of high school.

    "Top high school students have been successful when they know what they want," he says. "Students have to be good. It's intensive learning."

    Most of all, says Khan, the program is a great solution for trained professionals new to Canada, like graduate Olivia Pesayco. With the benefits of a ready-made field placement, it can be a fast track to a new career.

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