Empowering Students to Prepare for a Technology-Related Career
Washington Technology Magnet School (WTMS) in St. Paul is a comprehensive secondary school with a science, mathematics and technology focus that serves students in grades six through 12. Many of the students at WTMS come from low-income families and lack of computer access and skills puts them at a disadvantage for securing teen employment.
Learning job skills in part-time positions as a teenager is important in positioning youth for future full-time employment. Enhancing employment experiences during the teen years plays an important role in breaking the poverty cycle and providing at-risk youth with skills and experience that can be translated into later career success.
In 2013, Minnesota Computers for Schools (MCFS) kicked off a technology workforce-training program at WTMS to spark interest in technology-related fields and increasing computer literacy for future academic and career success.
“We were really excited to pilot this program at WTMS. It is our hope that we create excitement and interest in computer technology for these students as they complete high school,” said Tamara Gillard, executive director of MCFS. “The course is great preparation for college and entering the workforce.”
MCFS trainer, Mike Kingbird, teaches middle and high school students marketable technology skills – from basic computer literacy to complex technical thinking to recycling and refurbishing computers. Students spend two days a week recycling and refurbishing computers and three days taking digital literacy and security classes, learning how to use the Microsoft Office Suite, attending job search and online employment resource training and working towards their IC3 (Internet and Computing Core Certification) certificate. Upon completion of IC3 each student has the opportunity to earn a laptop.
In the first six months, three students at WTMS have completed all phases of the programming and earned a free laptop. For many students, this is the first time they’ve had access to a computer at home – helping them complete assignments, conduct research and communicate with teachers and classmates.
Beyond having a computer, at the completion of the program, students have skills that will help them secure employment. From basic computer skills like word processing, typing and how to use the Internet to more complex skills like computer recycling and refurbishing the program helps ignite a passion for computers and empowers students to prepare for a technology-related career.
“These students are crazy for computers and want to learn as much as possible,” said Mike Kingbird, trainer at WTMS. “This is the only class of its kind at WTMS and the students are thrilled to be able to develop skills that are important not only to their education, but to their future careers.”