PC Support Comes to Canada’s Native Population

by Jim Staats | Feb 28, 2012

Life on a reserve among one of the aboriginal First Nations groups in Alberta, Canada, doesn’t always mesh well with modern times, but a successful, new training program is changing that - with help from CompTIA.

Brought together in May 2011, just over a dozen students - all members of the Louis Bull Tribe - began an inaugural PC support training program provided by SAIT Polytechnic with the simple goal of better employment options.

Using the fundamentals-soaked CompTIA A+ certification as a training core, program organizers say such a mission is being far exceeded with students planning to introduce computer support businesses to the remote community.

“It’s promising for them as an opportunity to help out their community and make a better living for themselves,” said Adam Romano, coordinator of SAIT’s School of Information and Communications Technologies.

Known as one of Canada’s leading publicly-funded institutions, SAIT has always been a trailblazer involving business, industry and community advisors in helping shape its skill-oriented curriculum, but this was the first time technical training was being delivered to members of the country’s native population.

As in the case of most remote, small towns, residents on these reserves often have to leave to seek out many services or modern conveniences. The hope, Romano said, is soon that won’t be the case when it comes to technical support for computers and associated businesses.

“The reserve (students) are living on is not the nicest place to be,” Romano said. “We are trying to provide them opportunity to seek meaningful employment and, in some cases, they are thinking of starting a business to help the people in their communities.

“It’s really providing educational opportunities they haven’t had in the past and help them with their situation.”

For an initial program designed to focus on PC support in a more general notion, Romano noted that “A+ lends itself very well to that.”

He said students of the 11-week course also are given training on Microsoft products, customer service and other soft skills.

Backed by government funding, mobile labs, equipment and instructors descended on the reserve in Hobbema, Alberta, just south of Edmonton.

A six-year veteran with SAIT, Romano noted the institution has had an ongoing relationship with the Louis Bull Tribe for some time. Their request, he said, for such training, along with the students they selected, made the choice of CompTIA A+ all the more meaningful.

“This certification is meant to work with folks without a lot of computer experience,” Romano said, noting “the opportunity to take curriculum that has a certification known worldwide is certainly beneficial to students.

“We’ve been training (these students) with SAIT certifications (that are) well known in Alberta and wanted to opent it up more,” Romano said. “We felt with A+, we were able to do that.”

Romano said at the end of the CompTIA A+ component of training, a handful of students were so excited and interested in creating their own computer support business that he challenged them to write their own official certification exams.

“When we saw their passion and these students saw the value, we didn’t want to stop,” he said. “We wanted them to see how much farther they could go.”

To date, the group is still waiting on the results of the exams taken by students of the program, but Romano remains optimistic and forward-thinking.

“We have received interest from other First Nation groups,” he said of future technical offerings. “We are proceeding slowly and will see if they would be interested in having us host the same programs at their locations.”

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