Canada's Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC), CompTIA, Cisco Canada and other IT groups are campaigning across the nation's provinces and territories to establish the ICTC's "Focus on Information Technology" program in more Canadian high schools and school districts.
The Focus on Information Technology (FIT) program is a two-year course designed for 11th and 12th graders that combines training for IT certifications, hands-on lab experience, non-paid work experience, job shadowing and internships. Curricula concentrations offered include: Network systems and operations, software design and development, interactive media, and business and information analysis.
The ICTC wants to increase the number of high schools offering FIT programs from 150 to 1,000 by 2020. The FIT program was recently refreshed, and provincial educators are increasingly responsive to ICTC's promotion of the program.
"We are trying to drive kids into post-secondary — computer science programs, for example," says Tracy Biernacki-Dusza, FIT's national program manager. ICTC estimates that Canadian employers will seek to hire roughly 17,000 information and communication technology workers each year through 2016, but the organization notes that employers face pervasive IT skill shortages Now that the children of Baby Boomers are moving out of high school, "enrollments are down across the country in post-secondary IT programs," Biernacki-Dusza says.
The FIT program, if widely implemented, can help with the economic development of Canada and its provinces, she believes. ICTC, along with CompTIA, Cisco and others, seeks to attract a bigger share of the high school talent pool to IT-related career and educational pathways. "They don't need to be computer science geeks or engineers," says Biernacki-Dusza. "There's a huge demand for people who are implementers — who troubleshoot networks and implement new technologies and features."
Working with representatives in each province, FIT supporters emphasize the power of building partnerships between high school IT programs, post-secondary institutions and local industry, and also the power of certification-centric IT curricula. Schools like Burnaby South Secondary School have seen success with this model.
Wadih Zaatar, manager for Cisco Networking Academy in Canada, calls FIT's expansion goals "pretty aggressive" but says, "We have a very strong partnership with ICTC and also with CompTIA. We're going to provide all the support needed." CompTIA International Director for Canada Denise Woods-Goldstein adds that the CAPP Academy (CompTIA Authorized Partner Program) has "doubled in size in Canada in the last year and plans for further growth in 2013."
ICTC doesn't provide money to establish FIT programs within local high schools. "We bring the idea, support, resources and connections," says Biernacki-Dusza. "We act as the facilitator between industry, government and education."
Biernacki-Dusza believes that once high school districts understand the value and impact of a FIT program, they will implement it. "School boards and especially teachers always want the best opportunities for their kids."
For more information on becoming a CAPP Academy (CompTIA Authorized Partner Program), contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about the ICTC's "Focus on Information Technology" program for Canadian high schools, contact email@example.com.