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London IT Firm Offers Teens Practical Tech Training

Bright Technology's eight-week course gives teens hands-on experience in building computers, programming and even interacting with customers.

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8 MOOCs Transforming Education
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With high schools offering scant IT education, getting British youngsters interested in careers in IT has been a problem, but at least one technology company is hoping to rectify the lack by offering a free IT training program aimed at teens.

A handful of teens have enrolled at The Bright Academy, run by London IT consultancy Bright Technology, which offers IT support, cloud services and VoIP solutions to British firms.

"Despite the growing number of skilled IT workers required in the U.K., the education system and government efforts to provide them are coming up short," said Phil Taphouse, service delivery manager at the company.

[ University students amp up their programming skills. Read British Students' Entertainment App Wins MS Contest. ]

"Most current courses and schemes tend to be time-consuming, meaning that the training is often irrelevant and outdated by the time the course is over," he said. "What's more, many training schemes don't give students the practical skills they need to survive in an IT job. There is only so much you can tell someone about how to build a server -- they can't turn up in their new job having never actually done so before."

Hence the emphasis on practical training in the firm's eight-week course, with classroom-based lessons taking a backseat. Students will study toward earning industry qualifications such as the A+ and MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) certifications, but the content is shaped to reflect the everyday experiences of IT managers, thus centering on "real world implementations, building servers and PCs, and even interacting with customers," said Taphouse.

So far, only four teens have enrolled, which the company acknowledges is a drop in the bucket. "The numbers being trained in the Academy may seem like a drop in the ocean, but we plan to expand the scheme in coming years," said Taphouse, who added that he hoped British IT education could be improved.

Some of his four students agreed that British high school IT classes are lacking. "I believe the standard of IT education is not enough -- a lot of students have computers and laptops at home already, so schools should take IT education to the next level," said Kareem Khan Pathan. "There should be more options. I have always wanted to learn how to troubleshoot and configure computers but this option was available at school."

"When I was studying IT in high school it was mostly spreadsheet based," said Mitesh Bhudia. "I was hoping for a more technical [education] where you would get to open the PC up get to examine components, build your own PC and do a bit of programming here and there."

All the Bright Academy students have high hopes the course will give them an edge in the job market.

"I think working in the Bright Academy will increase the chances of me getting a job by improving my knowledge and skills whilst gaining a lot of vital experience," said Aaron Kamese.

The fourth student, Benjamin Keeley, 18, is trying IT after spending several months competing with large numbers of applicants for entry-level jobs in retail.

Although Europe's economy demands more IT workers, according to the BBC, the number of skilled IT graduates is failing to keep pace. Ernst & Young has said the U.K.'s skills gap will "probably take a generation to fill" thanks to the decision by many large British organizations to offshore their technology operations to India in the mid-1990s.

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