A new program is allowing tech enthusiasts from low-income backgrounds to study IT support in Calgary. The icing on the cake? They don't need to worry about paying expensive tuition fees or tackling massive student loans.
The IT support specialist program is an initiative launched by Calgary-based Momentum, a group that focuses on community economic development in the city.
'We've been interested in trying to broaden the path for people to pursue a job and a good career in technology," said Jeff Loomis, executive director of Momentum. "And so we became aware of this new revenue model where people pay back … the tuition after they are employed."
Loomis noted his team was inspired by an American non-profit organization that organizes "tech training" sessions for interested participants.
The IT support specialist program from Momentum is full-time and runs for five months. Interested candidates need to pay a minimum of $500 before their classes begin.
The course is scheduled to start in June and is currently accepting applications. Because it's the program's first test run, spots are limited and the first cohort is expected to have 12 to 15 students.
Students can choose to pay a large portion of their fees after they've graduated from the program and landed a job.
"We'll be patient and will continue to support people to try to get a job, and then once they confirm employment, there'll be two years to try to complete the payment on the tuition and no interest charged during that time," said Loomis.
Participants can explore a variety of roles
While the full tuition fees are $13,850, students will have access to bursaries amounting to $6,850. They will have to pay the rest of their fees in monthly instalments only after securing a job as outlined by the program's income-sharing agreement.
"We're trying to keep the upfront costs as affordable as possible so that they can participate in high-quality training that can lead to a good job and then ultimately a career in the tech industry," said Loomis in a conversation on The Homestretch.
After finishing the course that offers multiple certifications and work experience with Momentum's industry partners, participants will be able to explore a variety of roles and work as client support analysts, computer specialists, customer service representatives, information clerks, support administrators, and more.
LISTEN | Jeff Loomis talks about Momentum's new IT program:
For Han Nguyen, an IT service desk analyst, participating in one of Momentum's tech programs was a way to upskill and prepare for a career in the tech industry.
"After graduating with a degree in geology, I worked in retail for five years. Just hard to find a job," she said.
After hearing about Momentum's offerings and participating in one of the courses, Nguyen decided to take things a step further and joined an IT program for women — the AWS re/Start program.
"I really believe in the program as it has impacted my life significantly since I've taken the program," said Nguyen, who met her mentor through the course and was offered a job shortly after finishing her internship at a tech company.
Nguyen said courses like the IT support specialist program help many individuals overcome financial constraints and get a foot in the door of the local tech industry.
Nguyen added that such initiatives are especially advantageous for those who don't have local connections or don't hail from a technical background.
"There's so many areas in tech, and just knowing where to start would be great," she said.