Part of the reason I enjoy my role here so much in the Education team at Microsoft is the opportunity I have to see how educators around the UK can use our solutions and technologies to help others find their own potential and build skills to help make for a better and improved way of life.
Andrew Bettany, IT Academy Manager at York University has literally done just that.
When an earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean of January 2010, over 200,000 people lost their lives. Since then, the Haitian people have been trying to rebuild their lives as best possible with very little resources and money. Many of the skilled workers were those who lost their lives meaning aid workers found it difficult to find skilled people to call upon to help rebuild the infrastructure of the island.
Shortly after the earthquake Microsoft and NetHope established links to the island and conducted a IT Skills boot camp for 39 young people, which then led to a six month internship with relief aid agencies which were quickly mobilized to the country.
Andrew remembered a presentation by Ken Rosen of Microsoft Learning about NetHope, a non-profit organization partnered with Microsoft who uses IT to assist in relief efforts around the world. At the MCT Summit in Zurich a few years ago, Ken spoke to the audience of 450 IT Trainers about the issues that the aid workers across the world were facing and asked for any volunteers to go out and help rebuild the technology skills infrastructure.
So, after reading about the success of the initial wave of IT Training in Haiti, Andrew, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) for 5 years, volunteered to go out to Haiti and train IT Professionals and Developers from local colleges to become Microsoft Certified Trainers.
He suggested an additional program which would train the Haitians to become MCT’s themselves - ‘’Train the Trainer’’ - a fantastic idea that would mean Haitian residents could once again become self-sufficient and in turn enable them to take control of their own destiny and train others directly; thus providing a local skill base of IT professionals in Haiti.
Before Andrew travelled out to Haiti, he set up a plan and agenda to implement the training in a week long ‘boot camp’’, which included a packed out week of training, exams and presentations, testing all round skills of the students.
Together NetHope, Microsoft and Andrew narrowed the 35 online applications to just 13 whom demonstrated the necessary desire, experience, ambition and learner focused mind-set to attend the week’s training in IT and delivery skills hosted and supported in a community college (Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haiti (ESIH), based in Port-au-Prince, the Haiti capital.
Over the course of the week, the student’s boundaries of learning were indeed stretched. Many were shy and didn’t like to initially ask for help when unsure, and could take up to an hour to complete a task that many of us could complete in a couple of minutes. Andrew had the job of teaching everything from technique and how to apply skills learnt as well as the actual MCT program. The days were long and hard in a room with very little air-conditioning and basic amenities, but incredibly rewarding.
However over the days, more and more shone through and soon were able to stand up in front of the class and deliver a short 15 minute presentation, such as Windows 7 Firewall, overview of DNS or DHCP, giving good examples of using the skills needed to become an MCT.
All 13 participants succeeded at the "Train the Trainer" part of the boot camp, and of the 13 students taking the Microsoft Certification Professional (MCP) exams, 5 passed first time and could apply for MCT status, more than doubling the number of MCTs already on the island, with those who didn’t pass, being able to retake over the coming months.
Microsoft and NetHope will be working together again at the NetHope IT Academy Internship Program at the end of September, an event where the newly minted MCT’s will have the opportunity to present modules in front of 30 recent graduates which aims to help them secure IT work experience with aid agencies to rebuild not only the infrastructure using IT but also help those displaced after the earthquake.
It’s just over 18 months since the earthquake hit Haiti, many people are still without homes, choosing instead to live in communities built up of tents. Maybe this is down to being frightened that if hit again, they would lose what they had. Hopefully with the help given between Microsoft and NetHope as well as individuals like Andrew, Haiti can slowly begin to re-establish itself. This will not be easy and certainly will not happen overnight, however giving people the confidence and more importantly the ability to use IT to grow and rebuild can only mean they are on their way up.
Andrew with his class of students