Students log on to free summer courses in IT
Hi-tech skills can be learned over the holidays – and there are no fees. Kim Bielenberg reports
It is a chance for school-age students to do courses in computer technology free of charge during the summer, and places are being snapped up quickly.
Microsoft has given its backing to a range of free 'Taster' summer courses in technology at the College of Computer Training in Dublin.
While fee-charging summer courses abound across the country, there are also free options for those interested in web design, mobile-phone technology and other computer-related topics.
CoderDojo, the courses in computer programming aimed mostly at younger children, has already shown the public hunger for free tech-related activities.
Early indications are that the new Taster courses recently announced at the College of Computer Training in Dublin are also proving hugely popular.
These courses are aimed at students in the senior cycle.
The courses were launched just a week ago. By the weekend, up to 200 students, mostly those ending transition year and fifth year, had signed up, and some of the courses are nearly full. They can accommodate 300 in total.
Each course in the summer lasts three weeks and students attend for four half-days each week.
The courses take place between July 15 and August 31.
Neil Gallagher, director of the College of Computer Training on Westmoreland Street, said: "The lectures will focus on the real world, practical uses of technology and would suit basic to intermediate level students."
Mr Gallagher said the courses will be useful for those considering a career in IT.
"There is a huge drop-out rate for students studying IT courses in college, because many students who enrol in them do not have a good idea of what they are like. This taster course should help them to decide."
The most popular courses in the schedule are in computer networking, computer programming, mobile technology, and gaming.
Dr Kevin Marshall, thehead of education at Microsoft Ireland said students can put their summer holidays to good use by acquiring greater technology skills.
"We hope that these courses will give students skills in areas such as computer games and website design.
"It would be an added bonus if many of the 300 participants went on to enjoyable careers in the IT industry, where job opportunities are very plentiful.
"The IT sector is a fascinating industry to work in, and these practical courses are designed to reflect that and provide students with an overview of what a job in the industry could involve."
The courses are also backed by the group, Fastrack to IT, an industry-led initiative to help young people to receive technological training.
At present there are thought to be up 4,500 jobs vacant in the IT industry, because of a shortage of workers with suitable skills. There are other less formal options for young people interested in free training in digital media.
The voluntary organisation Camara has 37 TechSpaces based in youth centres across the country.
The free activities range from film-making and animation, to developing mobile apps.
"The youth workers at the centres are trained to act as mentors," says Camara Ireland manager Steven Daly. "They can help young people with their projects.
"At Techspace the emphasis is on the creative use of technology. So they are not usually just learning how to use it.
"It is not like enrolling in a formal course. The young people are encouraged to follow their own interests as designers, inventors and creators.
"One of the advantages of Techspace is that the equipment is provided. Each Techspace has up to 15 laptops."
Technology companies are known to be keen to improve IT skills among teachers as well as students.
Last week, it was announced that 1,000 second-level teachers around the country are to be trained in computer skills as part of a joint initiative to help increase computer skills among school pupils.
Google will donate €1.5m to the scheme over three years.
The programme will be run by Trinity College and will focus on increasing technological capabilities in disadvantaged schools.
More information on the courses for second-level students is available directly from the College of Computer Training by phoning (01) 6333444, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by enrolling directly online at www.cct.ie. For information on Techspace: Techspace.ie