Australian camp focuses on aboriginal youth

IBM is moving its IT camp program for indigenous youth outside North America for the first time. The program is modeled on one launched in Canada in 2005, and the Australian students will collaborate with an IT camp in Calgary.

The Victorian country town of Ballarat is hosting the Exploring Interests in Technology and Engineering (EXITE) camp this week for indigenous youth in years 9, 10 and 11.

According to IBM, the camp aims to encourage greater learning of technology amongst rural indigenous youth, and to encourage people living in rural cities like Ballarat to explore technology-centric industries and learn about potential career opportunities in IT.

The camp is organized in conjunction with the University of Ballarat, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and the Catholic Education Office Diocese of Ballarat.

EXITE leader Cameron Woolfe said in the past IBM has held camps targeting girls and people with disabilities, and that “working with the indigenous community is something we’ve wanted to do for some time”. “

It’s fortunate that IBM has a presence in Ballarat, where there is also a significant indigenous population, so that this can be a sustained effort, not just a one-off event,” he said.

The camp includes sessions on Internet safety, Web design, podcasting and animation; a career expo day; one day of work experience with an IBM mentor; and computer game programming and testing.

An EXITE camp is also taking place at the same time in Calgary, and students attending the Ballarat camp will be using an Internet forum to communicate and share experiences with the students in Calgary.

In addition, each student is paired with an IBM employee who will mentor them during the school year through academic assistance and career counseling.

Gwenda Freeman, manager of the Aboriginal Education Centre at the University of Ballarat said she hopes the camp will encourage students to take on a career in computing or engineering.

“We are pleased that indigenous students in the Grampians region have this opportunity to learn more about careers in computing in a fun way,” she said.

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