Scheme to help youngsters in deprived areas provides firms with IT support staff

An IT training programme for youngsters in deprived areas is helping employers find skilled staff to fill gaps in their IT...

An IT training programme for youngsters in deprived areas is helping employers find skilled staff to fill gaps in their IT support departments, leading firms have told Computer Weekly.

Following Computer Weekly's report on the Skills4IT programme last week, employers have revealed how the scheme has helped more than 40 students pursue careers as IT technicians within their organisations.

The scheme, originally created by business advisory firm Deloitte in 2001, has won support from firms including HSBC, Vodafone, Morgan Stanley and News International.

They say it has helped them find skilled, enthusiastic employees to perform vital maintenance and systems build work in their PC support operations.

"The enthusiasm of those we have retained is a joy to behold," said Steve Southwart, former head of IT services at HSBC Global Markets.

"Three students impressed us with their skills, enthusiasm and commitment, and despite difficult market conditions, we offered them two-year training contracts. They are becoming valuable members of their teams," said Tracey Hollis, IT manager at News International.

The Skills4IT programme aims to give youngsters who may not have performed well at school, but who have an aptitude for IT, the opportunity to gain training and work experience in IT hardware and software support.

Students are selected for the scheme following aptitude tests that measure their spatial abilities. They then spend a year at college, learning hardware, software and networking skills. They also receive training in customer service and employability skills.

"The thing that many young people coming out of school lack is an understanding of the skills and behaviour needed in the workplace," said Richard Stone, director of the community involvement programme at Deloitte. "Employment skills training is all about having them develop workplace skills, communication skills, presentation skills and teamworking skills. And practical skills, like how to write a CV."

The youngsters gain their first work experience at Easter, during a two-week unpaid placement, when they shadow an IT support technician, visiting clients and fixing problems. This is followed by a three-month paid placement at the end of their academic training. The students earn £150 a week during their placement.

In 2003 the Skills4IT scheme was expanded to include a further nine colleges and attracted 146 students. Of these, 75 completed their course to go onto placements, and around half of this number were offered jobs.

A briefing on Skills4IT will be held at the Information Technologists Hall in London on 26 May. Details at: 

[email protected]


Isle of Dogs sixth-former secures graduate-level position   

"Signing up for the Skills4IT programme was one of the best decisions I made," said course graduate Adbid Ahmed. 

Ahmed has secured himself a future in IT after impressing Deloitte and Touche during a three-month work placement in the company's IT department. 

Ahmed was offered a place on the Skills4IT programme while a pupil at George Green School on the Isle of Dogs in London. He learned IT hardware and software support skills at Lewisham College while he completed his sixth form studies.  "

At first it was a bit difficult. I had a lot of commitments with doing my other studies, but once I organised myself it worked out," he said. 

His placement with Deloitte coincided with the firm's merger with Arthur Andersen, and some major IT upgrade work. 

"Everyone was moving from Windows 95 to Windows 2000. I was working in the build department," said Ahmed. 

Since joining the firm in 2002, Ahmed says his confidence has grown tremendously. "I have a lot more responsibility than when I first started. My understanding of communications has grown. 

"At first I was a bit worried about going on call. There are people there earning hundreds of pounds an hour. If I don't fix their PCs they are losing money," he said. "You learn to be calm, to understand what the situation is and to resolve it as quickly as possible."

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