It’s often argued that many education systems do not adequately prepare students to enter the workplace with the right skills. Fact. However, I recently came across a school that is bucking this trend.
West Leyden High School in Chicago wanted its students to understand the IT skills needed in the business world. With this in mind, Leyden set up the Technical Support Internship (TSI) to provide a live IT helpdesk for the school.
The mission was clear: to be the first contact point for IT queries; to be academically focused; to be customer-centric; to place technology at the heart of teaching, learning and productivity. Wow, I’m impressed!
The resource operates in a similar way to helpdesks you’d find in your workplace. Incoming queries are recorded via a ticketing system. The students’ work on a rota system, to ensure there is ample cover. If they can’t solve a problem, they can seek assistance from a peer, enabling them to learn as well as problem-solve.
The helpdesk is unique because it demonstrates a live, hands-on approach to using technology; it operates in real-time; it exposes students to diverse projects and challenges them to develop IT career interests and opportunities.
So far, the initiative has proven to be very successful. By the end of Summer 2013, over 7,000 requests were successfully handled by the helpdesk. Completed projects included server upgrade work and development of a new app featuring the day’s lunch menu! I can only hope the food is better than my time at school!
The students gained CompTIA, Microsoft and Google certifications, they learnt Java, Python, and HTML programming skills and gained guidance in job interviews, resume writing and creating a LinkedIn profile to support their imminent careers. The TSI encourages innovation by hosting a business start-up class called Entrepreneurship. This is so relevant in today’s business climate, as 18-25 year olds have created over 20% of start-ups in the last 12 months, according to Forbes.
The real fundamental benefit of the scheme is the link to local employers. This is encouraging to hear, as Leyden students will be one step ahead of their rivals when they seek employment in just a few years time.
Currently, many of the students have expressed an interest in getting directly into the ‘working world’ rather than further education. The school wants to increase its connection with employers to support its desire to find students immediate paid positions, both local and beyond. Now that is real success from humble in-house helpdesk beginnings.