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Addressing the ICT skills shortage: ACE’s inaugural Diploma in Computer Technology takes off

01 Oct 2008

The innovative Diploma in Computer Technology, offered exclusively through ACE Training, has begun in Auckland. Ten adult students, many of whom have been actively involved in the workforce for many years, have dedicated themselves to a year of full time study at ACE, as well as a second year paid internship with ACE, Axon, ASB, Datacom, IBM, Kinetics Group, Maclean Computing or Microsoft NZ.

In an exclusive monthly ongoing special feature, The Channel magazine will track two of the ten students, Shayna Bryers and Michael Lovell, through the course and their internships. In addition to our monthly updates in the magazine, you can follow their progress through Shayna's and Michael’s weekly blogs on The Channel website.

The course

The program, designed with the support of Microsoft, will award graduates with an NZQA approved Level 5 Diploma in Computer Technology (DipCT), incorporating MCAS, MCSE and MCTS certifications. The goal of the course is to address the skills shortages within the ICT industry in a new way, by upskilling and qualifying those interested in, or passionate about, ICT who have not had the opportunity to turn their interest or passion into a career.

The ACE Diploma in Computer Technology comprises four internationally recognised certifications: Microsoft Certified Application Specialist (MCAS), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE 2003), Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD .NET), and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS: Windows Server 2008). Students will have two study paths from which to choose – Certificate for Systems Engineer or Certificate for Solution Developer.

The course is made up of two components, the certificate in Office systems and the essentials of networking, which will lead to MCAS 2007. Extensive training will cover Microsoft Office Word, Excel, Power Point, and Vista Business Worker with two electives in Outlook or Access and fundamentals of networking. On completion of the Certificate for Systems Engineer, graduates will gain their MCSE and MCTS certifications. On completion of the Certificate for Solution Developer, students will gain their MCSD.

The people

Ten individuals, from as many different backgrounds, have begun training at ACE for their Diplomas in Computer Technology. Shoayb Khan, one of the younger students, earned an IT certificate from Unitec last year, and has goals of obtaining a “good IT job” upon completion of the course, with networking being of particular interest.

Onne Hiemstra, a Dutch immigrant and married father of two young girls, has chosen to leave his family in Mount Maunganui during the week in order to stay at a Ponsonby hotel near ACE Training’s Auckland premises. While his work history has been mainly in journalism, Hiemstra is totally committed to this new course of study and has been granted an internship with Kinetics Group at the end of the first year of study. “I came to New Zealand two years ago thinking of my career, the future and of my two little girls,” he said. Hiemstra speaks six languages and believes many of the skills he developed in Europe as a journalist will translate to a career in ICT.

Kurdish-born Arian Dylan came to New Zealand from northern Iraq, and has always been passionate about IT. For the past 18 months he has been working at the University of Auckland as an IT administrator, but has found it difficult to further his IT career, despite the skills shortage in New Zealand. “Last year, while working, I did my MCAS. Now the opportunity to complete my MCSE has come at the right time. I like everything and anything to do with IT.” While Dylan has not yet been placed with an internship, he told The Channel that he wants to complete the course even if he never gets the internship at the end.

Seventeen-year old Lee Edri did not complete his high school certificate at Glendowie College.  One of the Diploma course’s youngest students, he has an internship lined up with ACE Training. “Ability in computing has nothing to do with a high school diploma,” he stated. “New Zealand has a big thing about denying people without the right papers. But ACE has given me a chance.” Edri’s goal is to become a computer technician.

Jean Smithe is a motorcycle enthusiast with a post graduate degree in Psychology. Smithe spent 11 years in the UK Civil Service until 1991, and enjoys building websites in her free time. “My partner suggested it was about time I got some qualifications and got paid to do what I do for everyone already. I look forward to learning new skills and getting my bad habits corrected.”

Richard Bardell has goals of an IT infrastructure or IT business analyst role. He wants to work with Microsoft server technology and has the long-term goal of obtaining a business degree at university. Having worked on an IT help desk, Bardell has seen, first hand, the benefits of qualifications. “I’ve found it near impossible to get an infrastructure role without at least the MCAS or MCSE. This is a bargain course.”

In progress already for a BSc in Computer Systems, Robert (Rob) Ball has no concrete career goal, but knows he wants it to be in the IT industry. “I’ve studied computers before, but couldn’t get a job. I needed the right skills first, but without an IT job, I found it hard to get the right skills. Getting certified now is the right move for me.”  One of the last students to register for the Diploma course, Ball has not lined up an internship, but hopes that will happen over the coming months.

Jonathan Ball (no relation to Rob Ball), has no certifications, but has a strong technical working knowledge of the Microsoft Office suite, programming languages, and a practical understanding of electronic composition. The incentive of the ACE Diploma course was the internship offer, and Ball is very much looking forward to his scheduled internship at Datacom.

Shayna Bryers

Shayna Bryers, a 27-year old single mother of an eight-year old girl, has been employed by ACE Training for over a year. Bryers’ dream is to work for Microsoft, and she is well on her way, having nabbed the Microsoft internship to begin after completion of the Diploma course. With nearly 30 qualifications already under her belt, including a Bachelor of Education from Massey University, a NZ Diploma in Business majoring in Management, and a National Diploma in Computing Level 5, Bryers has proven that she is willing to put in the hard yards to achieve her career goal.

“I really fell into it [IT],” Bryers explained. “Being a single mum made me really want to achieve. I’ve been doing as many certifications as I can. My focus when I first left school was on architecture, but I fell into computing and got hooked. The MCC has always been my goal.

In addition to working and participating full time in the Ace Diploma in Computer Technology program, Bryers is studying for her MBA through the distance learning program through the Southern Cross campus. With a father who served in the SAS for 20 years, Bryers is used to life outside New Zealand and hopes one day to work for Microsoft’s education division at its Redmond premises.

Michael Lovell

Michael Lovell graduated from Massey University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science, double majoring in Computer Science and Psychology. Just three years ago, surprisingly, Lovell found it so difficult to break into the IT industry that he chose to further pursue a career in psychology. However, “I saw this opportunity with ACE and went for it”, he said.

Lovell has been offered an internship with Axon, and envisions a career in IT infrastructure. “My ideal job,” he said, “would be out working with people or designing applications to do that.” With excellent grades in computer science courses at Massey, and a good working knowledge of programming languages, such as C, C++, Java, HTML, Javascript, and Pascal, it’s a wonder Lovell wasn’t snapped up as a new grad three years ago.

While Lovell was born in New Zealand, he left the country with his parents at the age of five. His father, as a business manager for a US chemicals company, led the family around the world. With fixed address in three separate countries, excluding New Zealand, while growing up, Lovell was exposed to much of what the world has to offer. But he lacked important local connections and market knowledge on his return to New Zealand. The certifications obtained through ACE’s Diploma in Computer Technology are what Lovell hopes will give him access to the career path he desires. “I’m just trying to find my feet in the New Zealand IT industry. I want to find what I enjoy and do my best at it,” he said.

Keep reading each month for updates on Shayna Bryers’ and Michael Lovell’s progress toward their IT career goals.

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