Microsoft Canada puts $750K in youth IT program

Kevin Stuffels, a youth member with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, wants to help children get a “foot in the door” as the world gets increasingly technology-focused by relaying the IT knowledge that he acquired using the resources made available through the club’s CanTech program.

It’s inspirational to see these kids that “would normally be out there on the street in gangs or mixed up with drugs or violence and actually coming in and trying to better themselves by joining our program,” said Stuffels.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC), a youth organization with more than 100 community-based clubs across the country, has received an additional three-year commitment from Microsoft Canada of $750,000 to support the launch 12 new CanTech centres across the country. Future Shop is providing computers, printers and digital cameras towards this initiative, and will also render IT support to facilitate the installation of the software and hardware at these new centres.

CanTech, the $7-million-dollar national technology learning program, was developed and launched by BGCC in 2001 with support from Microsoft Canada and Future Shop. Microsoft Canada’s initial donation to CanTech was $2.2 million.

Besides the installation of new centres, the renewed support from Microsoft and Future Shop will mean club members will have access to updated Microsoft software at no cost, technology and science after-school and summer camps, Internet safety training workshops, Digital Arts Program and Contest, and Youth IT Champions (technology mentors and coaches).

In addition to Microsoft Canada’s renewed commitment of $750,000, the company is also donating $2 million of cash, software and training over three years for all clubs across the country.

“There’s nothing that excites us more than enabling children by giving them an opportunity they may not have had otherwise,” said Microsoft Canada president Phil Sorgen. He added that by investing in education, workforce training, skills development, and the expansion of programs that focus on digital inclusion, more people will get involved in “this technology-driven economy that is so critical to the long-term success of Canada.”

Sorgen also noted the importance of the partnership between Microsoft and BGCC in helping the software “really come to life” and that while the company may build good technology, the clubs “provide a great environment for kids to come to after school.”

But children don’t just benefit from the hard technology skills, it’s also the “transferrable life skills that are so important” like team work and collaboration, said BGCC president and CEO Pam Jolliffe. Initiatives like CanTech are particular important to “stimulate interest” among children in the fast-growing vocations of science, mathematics and engineering that have been suffering from low university enrollment.

Ron Rock, the executive director of East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, the first of the new CanTech centres to be launched, said the resources are “helpful in leveling the playing field for the youth in this community,” adding the location in which the club resides is identified by the City as one such community in “high need of community support and investment.”

Todd Empey, vice-president of Future Shop, described the relationship with BGCC as “fantastic and rewarding” and expressed his motivation to work with programs like CanTech upon hearing of success stories of club members, like Stuffels. “Hundreds of children across Canada are going to be able to come and benefit from the curriculum, the hardware, the software. And the experience they are going to learn from using the technology will create many, many more stories,” he said.

Stuffels, too, hopes to learn from the children who are reaping the benefits of the CanTech program and continues to be inspired by them. In fact, a member recently shared with him a desire to return to school to study computer animation. “That feels like a big step for me because it was me who originally inspired him to do it,” said Stuffels.

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