SOURCE: OCRI

OCRI

June 03, 2009 09:30 ET

Industry-Led Program Inspires High School Students Planning to Buck the Recession to Consider Careers in IT

IBM, OCE, Macadamian, and Nortel Participate in High School Mentoring Program to Solve a Skills Shortage "Perfect Storm" That Threatens to Cost the Canadian Economy Over $10 Billion

OTTAWA--(Marketwire - June 3, 2009) - Canadian information technology and communication (ICT) industry leaders are taking time out from the business at hand to provide mentorship in high school classrooms. This is to address a looming shortage of workers that could impact the tech sector and negatively affect the Canadian economy. In Ottawa, tech mentors from IBM Canada Ltd., Macadamian Technologies Inc., and Nortel have worked with the first crop of 48 students in a high school pilot program that hopes to double in size next year, attracting provincial funding to expand it across Ontario in future years.

The Ottawa High School Technology Program (www.ottawatechstudents.com) pilot has delivered seven mentors from three companies to work with students in hands-on labs at industry sites and in their classrooms that emphasize advanced computer skills. "The idea is to inspire students to pursue ICT careers before their senior year courses are locked in. Through hands-on learning with industry professionals the students develop the skills they need to thrive in college and university technology courses instead of hitting a wall for lack of these skills," says Claude Haw, President and CEO, OCRI. "We must make this a city, provincial, and national priority for the good of the Canadian economy."

According to the Conference Board of Canada, a "perfect storm" of socio-demographic factors, negative perceptions of the tech sector following the bubble burst of 2002, and a significant drop in university enrolment in IT programs across Canada have combined to create a situation where more than 90,000 jobs in the information technology sector will need to be filled in the next two to four years and could potentially impact the Canadian economy to the tune of $10.8 billion, or $120,000 per job, if they can't be filled.

"My favourite part about being a mentor for this program is seeing how creative the kids can be," says Dan Menard, a Software Developer from Macadamian Technologies Inc. "Their minds aren't limited by established approaches, and this allows them to come up with great ideas, which in turn makes the mentors' task of helping plan out an IT implementation a lot of fun."

Over the course of the school year, Ottawa High School Technology Program students participated one day per week learning about computer hardware, networking, team building and the variety of career options presented by the diverse technology sector. The program is designed around social computing, the open source community and the "One Laptop Per Child" (OLPC) XO from Quanta Computer Inc. Students create, with the help of their industry mentors, a final project that runs on the XO -- from online games to social networking applications. The students are given laptops to use throughout the program allowing them to easily work on their projects.

At an awards ceremony taking place today at Earl of March Secondary School in Kanata between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., two projects chosen from Earl of March and All Saints Catholic High School will be named best in class by mentors, teachers and program partners.

OCRI's partners in the Ottawa High School Technology Program include IBM Canada, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Macadamian Technologies, Nortel, The Ottawa Software Cluster, Dell Canada, Cisco, Microsoft, Algonquin College, Carleton University, University of Ottawa, Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB), Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), and Shad Valley summer students and Partnering to Achieve Student Success (PASS).

Note to producers and reporters: IT demonstration projects, mentors, students, program partners and parents will be available for interviews at Earl of March Secondary School between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., at 4 The Parkway, Kanata, Ontario.

About OCRI:

Leading the way for Ottawa, OCRI is the city's economic development agency. OCRI is the rallying point to bring business, education, research and talent together to create the winning economic conditions that allow Ottawa's knowledge-based companies to thrive locally and compete globally. At OCRI we promote sustainable economic development to maintain our high quality of life. For more information on OCRI visit our website at www.ocri.ca and for more information on the Ottawa Region please visit www.ottawaregion.com.

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