Vets help grads navigate market

The idea behind a recently launched IT mentorship program at Toronto’s Ryerson University is a firm belief that navigating today’s IT job market isn’t the smooth sailing it used to be.

The brainchild of Carole Chauncey, a professor at Ryerson’s School of Information Technology Management (ITM), the Information Technology Mentorship Program is designed to ease the transition from university to full-time employment. The faculty recently expanded its program streams to include subjects such as knowledge management, enterprise computing, telecom and multimedia, making for a wide variety of programs for students to choose from.

But despite the academic options, Chauncey said students still find the job market daunting. “I’ve encountered that students still don’t know what direction to go in or what is really expected of them,” she said. “Also, many of them don’t have close contact with other professionals who are in the field.”

Officially launched last April, the goal of the program is not only to prepare graduates for the IT workplace but to also connect students with IT professionals currently in the industry. It’s important that IT graduates have realistic expectations of the work world, Chauncey said.

Those who sign-on with a mentor can make more informed career decisions and be more prepared for the real world, she added.

In fact, unlike other mentor programs, this one connects students directly to practicing professionals, and leads Chauncey to believe that it’s the first of its kind in Canada. It also provides an opportunity for students to understand how classroom education is applied in the workplace, she noted.

IT veteran Richard Fung is one of 26 full-time IT professionals currently involved in the program. Fung, an IT manager of development and maintenance at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, noted that in today’s job market, graduates need every advantage they can get. “Four or five years ago, most of the graduates in IT would have gotten jobs straight away – now there’s a high non-placement rate,” Fung said.

Program mentors communicate with their “mentees” for a minimum of two hours a month, according to Chauncey. To accommodate the busy schedules of both groups, the program uses a variety of communication modes, including face-to-face meetings, e-mentoring, job shadowing, and job site visits.

The program allows students to learn things that simply can’t be taught in a classroom, Fung said, adding that mentors assist students in resum