Program prepares low-income women for IT

In honour of International Women’s Week, the Ontario government presented a $300,000 cheque Tuesday to a program that prepares disadvantaged women for employment in the IT sector.

Dianne Cunningham, the minister responsible for Women’s Issues, announced funding for the new Information Technology Training for Women (ITTW)-funded Futuresmart program at Toronto-based non-profit community centre Dixon Hall.

Created last spring, the ITTW is a funding initiative between the government, the private and voluntary sectors, said Ministry of Citizenship spokesperson Rae Williams. The program targets low income women, women with disabilities, immigrant women lacking Canadian certification, and administration staff wishing to improve computer training and skills, Williams said.

In a press statement, Cunningham said the ITTW program allots government funding to programs like Futuresmart to provide women with skills necessary to attain high-paying jobs within IT sector, and added that women are underrepresented in the IT field.

“The program provides an opportunity for economic self-sufficiency for women whose job prospects are limited…the skills they’ll learn will let them leave poverty behind for sustainable careers as technical office professionals,” said Wendy Miller, Futuresmart program manager at Dixon Hall.

Futuresmart is a 41-week intensive skill training program for long-term unemployed women in the areas of Microsoft Office, business skills, networking, database creation and Web design, Miller said,

Miller added that the second half of the program will be held at Toronto’s Centennial College. Other partners in the Futuresmart program include Wired Women, the Office Workers Careers Centre, and Digital Eve, Miller noted.

“We serve a clientele, which is hard to employ in the sense that they haven’t had the opportunity to keep their skill up to date. We’re talking about just being a bridging program to the IT world,” Miller said.

Women are then matched with a mentor in the IT sector and given a volunteer work placement and followed by a structured job search, with successful graduates given a certificate as a Technical Office Professional, Miller said.

“It’s someone who can do high-level admin work, and can also be the office liaison for the technical staff – (who) can do basic troubleshooting, can put up a simple Web site or database, and is kind of the tech and business-savvy admin assistant,” Miller said.

“It allows them a foot into the door so that they will in the future either go on for further training in IT…these women have a set of skill that they can travel with.”

International Women’s Week takes place this week.

The Government of Ontario is at