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TechNL’s free classes for a remote workforce

Rob Smith is the Engagement Co-ordinator with techNL, which offers free classes for those interestd in a career in the tech industry and help rural NL residents who want to work remotely. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WEST COAST — The world outside is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. Long gone are the days of home phones and dial up internet, as are likely the days of long commutes and 40+ hours weekly office hours. The landscape of business and education is moving forward in a new direction, and one organization is doing their part to help people get better prepared for the world around them and it continues to shift and adapt. TechNL has actually been around for quite some time, albeit under a different name. “So techNL has been around for quite a while now. It’s formerly known as NATI, N-A-T-I. It’s a non-profit membership association that enables a thriving innovation-driven economy for Newfoundland and Labrador, and it serves as the hub for the tech and tech-enabled industry in the province,” said Rob Smith, Engagement Co-ordinator with techNL. “(It is) a split organization, where it has a focus both on organizations and companies in the province that are tech or tech-enabled. So that has a membership component where companies, real members of tech-enabled, can participate in our ecosystem and gain access to programs and opportunities. As well, we have funding and programs for students and employees in this sector, so promoting both support for membership in terms of companies as well as membership in terms of individuals and students to support them on their career projects.” The best thing about these courses is that they are pretty much free. “This is a 27 million dollar, fully funded program in partnership with the Government of Canada Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program. So, techNL is administering this funding through 11 different program partners to be able to support learners in the province, both anyone from 18 and above who are Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or refugee status holders who live and work in Newfoundland and Labrador. These are the eligibility criteria for the program as outlined in the federal government’s mandate,” explained Smith. “All of the programs are fully funded by the federal government at no cost to the participant other than perhaps an application fee or two.” Those who are interested also don’t need to be in St. John’s to avail of these programs. “All but, I think one or two of our offerings, are fully online. And for the programming from Keyin College, we’re just offering those formal programs and micro-credentials,” said Smith. “Those are live online courses that people will be able to attend. And there will also be things like recordings and other self-directed learning materials they can follow after the fact. Almost all, except for maybe one or two programs, are available fully online.” The courses offered provide a chance for those interested in a tech career to take a step into that field. “What this is going to support is up-skilling programs and to be able to give people the skills required to participate in the tech industry. And so these go from full 16-month diploma programs in software development and digital administration to things like micro-credential courses, which are short-term skill-based courses in Amazon Web Services, which is a technology, infrastructure technology powering many websites across the Internet, and cyber security, which is something that’s really should be top of mind in many organizations right now in the province.” Depending on the course selected, students can be expected to walk away with different credentials. “Some of the programs, as I mentioned, are diploma programs. And those are going to be giving you a full diploma at the end of it, a 16-month program. Other things like Eon’s Micro-Credentials give certifications. And other programs instead just are up-skilling workshops, like for example, the ArcGIS training from SEM. This is just an up-skilling workshop where you’re going to have increased skills at the end of it, but no certificate.” There are higher difficulty courses that are also on offer. “We have three different levels of programming for both the AWS, Amazon Web Services, and cyber security programs from sort of a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of programming. And at the beginner level, this is known as cyber security, known as a secure computer user, which would be giving participants sort of this baseline, what I’m calling cyber hygiene, learning how to spot phishing attacks and social engineering attempts and learning how to defend at a high level the personal files and also organizational files for networks and computers,” explained Smith. “So this is going to be something like giving people an awareness of the different types of social engineering techniques that are used to access an institutional computer or also learning how to prevent things like best practices as you were or how to interact with content online.” Some courses have a limited number of seats, so those interested should check out the programs as soon as possible. “There is a limit to programs and some of them are being offered multiple times, some of them are being offered in a single instance. For example, the SEM GIS training is being offered in the Fall and the Winter at 25 seats each. And the diploma programs, the software development diploma is being offered in September and January at an expected 60 to 80 seats per session. These Office of Administration diplomas being offered in September, the final session, and that’s expected to be somewhere between 50 to 80 (seats) as well. And overall, the micro-credential courses have each around 400 different seats available, and this programming runs all until the end of March next year.” So far interest and participation have been quite strong. “We’ve really gotten a lot of interest from people, and we’ve got confirmation now that for each of those micro-credentials total, I think we’ve got confirmation now of about 200 registrants, and so we’re really hoping to promote this to people and really the first come, first serve situation,” said Smith. “However, we are really strongly focusing in this effort on equity-deserving groups, women and gender diverse people to Indigenous and newcomers, as well as people in rural areas all across the province, as well as other equity-deserving groups, including 2SLGBTQIA+ members and others. So we really want to prioritize reducing the barriers that those groups would have normally faced, both financially and otherwise, in this program.” The landscape of business and education has changed dramatically, due in no small part to COVID-19. “Over the past number of years, particularly during the pandemic, we’ve seen a really rapid adoption of technology in many workplaces. So things like the Digital Office Administration Diploma are going to be really impactful for learners as they go to enter into the workforce,” said Smith. “Learning how to manage a team using those digital office project management softwares and other platforms such as organizational tools is really going to give people an edge. And when they start applying for jobs in this workforce, as more and more work is being done online or hybrid, you’re going to have different skills required in order to learn how to manage those workers, for example.” The ability to work remotely is therefore a significant factor in the necessity of such programs. “A lot of work now is being done remotely, and a lot of education is being done remotely. We’re really pleased to be able to offer this program, this part of this programming, online so that we can really get a wide reach to a lot of people all across, and particularly rural areas in Newfoundland and Labrador, which have traditionally been under-served by educational opportunities,” said Smith. “It’s forcing people to relocate to Corner Brook or St. John’s or otherwise. So this is one of those very few, one of the very rare opportunities to be able to both learn in place in your community, as well as potentially work in place in your community, without actually having to relocate.” Rural communities are becoming much more connected, thanks in part to a $136 million dollar program by the Government of Canada and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to connect all remaining rural households in the province to high speed internet. The Universal Broadband Fund, first announced in Feb. 2022, is designed to work with internet service providers to achieve a national target of connecting 98 per cent of Canadians by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030. As remote work becomes more commonplace, this program will allow more rural residents to stay at home for work. “Over the pandemic, the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of people return back to the province from outside because of things like remote work. People are now able to do work for companies all across Canada and the world remotely from their communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Smith. “I saw this. I moved back from Montreal to Labrador during the pandemic and I now recently moved to Corner Brook, but working remotely is what allowed me to actually return home and it allowed me to also bring in money from outside the province into the province to be able to circulate. So we were thinking about how money flows in this digital economy. We’re no longer tied to physical resource extraction as a way to return money in or for people flying out to work camps in Alberta and otherwise to bring money in. We can now access opportunities remotely both within the province and even outside the province, even from our rural communities.”

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