This post is part of a series offering technology tips and tricks to help you work more efficiently, as well as help young people and organisations get the most out of IT. Visit www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/youthspark/ to find out more about the programmes available under the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative.  


When Ian Lewis showed up at WorkVentures five years ago, all he wanted was an IT traineeship. In just eight months, the young man received his Certificate IV in Information and Technology (IT) (a course that usually takes one to two years), landed a job at WorkVentures and is now a certified trainer.

The files of WorkVentures, an Australian social enterprise, are filled with stories of youth like Ian who secured economic stability after receiving IT and life skills training. Although Australia has a highly developed economy, there is still a margin of difference between communities, said WorkVentures Chief Executive Officer Arsenio Alegre. He highlighted that in developed countries, an average of 15 to 20 percent of the population is on the wrong side of the digital divide.

 Ian Lewis (first from left) went from being a participant to becoming a certified trainer. Here, he has just finished teaching a course for indigenous youth

WorkVentures has always been focused on improving employability since it began in the 1970s. Its Microsoft Australia partnership in 1986 helped kick off its digital empowerment programme for youth.

The organisation, which continuously updates its strategy, clinched an award in the ‘Internet Access and Digital Skills’ category at the 2013 Australia and New Zealand Internet Awards (ANZIAs) for its outstanding work in improving access to the Internet and increasing the awareness and skills of Australians on the wrong side of the digital divide. Arsenio said that in light of the proliferation of smartphones and other new devices, WorkVentures is now looking at e-learning modules.

 WorkVentures CEO, Arsenio Alegre (left), and Operations Executive, Emily Sparling, at the 2013 Australia and New Zealand Internet Awards (ANZIAs) ceremony

Below are some tips on developing and providing IT training courses for youth.

You don’t have to reinvent
“Collaborate with like-minded organisations,” said Arsenio. “Share resources and expertise. By doing that, we can enhance each other's programmes. We don’t have to invent something new all the time.”

Know why your audience is learning IT
IT literacy is a basic requirement in many jobs today. While some clients may want to specialise in IT as a career, others may be acquiring IT training as an enhancement of their existing skill set. Basic IT skills are also crucial for the actual job search, which is increasingly shifting online. Arsenio said, “Know what your target audience is really after, so you can focus on the right training for the individual.”

Adjust the curriculum to suit your audience’s readiness for learning technology
Arsenio cautions that the teaching has to suit the audience’s style and ability level to guarantee high engagement. He pointed out that a theory-based, self-directed curriculum is not effective in engaging young people with low literacy levels, saying, “That’s why our course for this group is practical and focuses on the hardware initially. The students get to open the computer and see what is inside. This is important because they prefer to learn through sight and touch.” By being able to put the computer back together, the students gain a tangible sense of achievement. With increased self-esteem, they have greater interest in and commitment to the course.

It’s not just about job skills
The organisation provides life skills training on topics ranging from goal-setting to teambuilding, as such skills are also needed for successful and joyful work.

Choose the right trainers 
Arsenio highlights that having the right trainers, those who have the qualifications and the quality to communicate clearly and in a practical, rather than theoretical, manner, is key for meaningful impact.

Provide a strong link to employment chances
WorkVentures is careful to ensure that the training provides a strong industry link to ensure that students have a visible pathway to employment, and helps to place students in traineeships or jobs.