Magazine article Technology & Learning

Techie Training for Students: IT Academies Provide Schools with Much-Needed Technical Backup, Kids with Valuable Career Skills, and Companies with a Better-Trained Workforce

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Techie Training for Students: IT Academies Provide Schools with Much-Needed Technical Backup, Kids with Valuable Career Skills, and Companies with a Better-Trained Workforce

Article excerpt

As schools and districts incorporate technology into their overall operations and curriculum, finding the funds to support the growing infrastructure becomes more and more of a challenge. Increasingly, schools are looking to students to fill the gap when it comes to technical support, but often without the means to provide them with formal--and expert--instruction or mentoring. IT academies developed by large technology companies such as Cisco and Oracle offer one response to this dilemma. These academies improve the quality of tech support through sophisticated training for students while also allowing them to acquire valuable industry-recognized certifications that will prepare them for future careers.

Whether they're called "IT academy," "network academy," or "Internet academy," these programs are all designed to supply schools with a start-to-finish, in-house curriculum they can employ in a classroom setting. The majority target high school students and are available internationally, with some offering more advanced certification options at the college level. And most programs include a training component for the instruct running the academy--which usually tends to be a school's technology coordinator or computer teacher (see "The Certified Educator," page 38, for additional opportunities).

Each of the IT academies listed below has some unique characteristics. Microsoft, for example, tailors its materials and certification exams to show mastery of Microsoft technologies, while 3Com's program is platform neutral. All offer some form of online assistance, from technical data libraries to e-mail correspondence with a professional. Costs for schools vary, ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. The Student TECH CORPS is an exception, with the fee supported by the community or local companies. Read on to learn more.

3COM NETPREP

3Com NetPrep is designed to train high school students to build and maintain computer networks; and prepare them for careers in network administration (A program targeting colleges is also available).

Courses, generally taught in sequence throughout the school year, cover four main areas: networking fundamentals, local-area networks, wide-area networks, and network architectures. In addition to textbooks, lab exercises, and Web-based materials, the curriculum includes an online message board that lets students obtain real-time feedback and support in their studies. Once they've completed the program, they're eligible to go on to take industry-standard certifications such as Network+, i-Net+, and Security+ via a third party. Educators interested in becoming NetPrep instructors must be certified through a 3Com Authorized Regional Training Center.

The cost is $45-$50 per student per course; $1,000 enrollment fee for schools (part of which may used as an advance on student training materials); $125 for instructor certification. Students may also purchase licenses to participate in online-only courses, which are between $23 and $30. A free 120-day evaluation kit is available. (888) 452-6902; www.3com.com

CISCO NETWORKING ACADEMY

Cisco Networking Academy, in partnership with Sun Microsystems, prepares students for Cisco-specific certifications, as well as a variety of vendor-neutral, professional certifications ranging from Cable Communications Specialist to Wireless LAN Design Specialist.

Combining face-to-face lectures, online learning, and hands-on laboratory exercises, the academy's secondary school curriculum is four semesters in length and culminates in a Cisco Certified Network Associate certification exam. The learning environment is facilitated by "e-learning centers" where students can log in and converse with peers from around the globe, and access online industry news and white papers.

Cisco has a hierarchy of regional academies, with each regional academy training and supporting up to 10 local programs. …

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