Helpful tech training for your student may go beyond traditional classes

Discussing classic literature and solving equations are still essential components of high school curriculums, but is your child also learning HTML coding or basic computer programming? With more jobs requiring a basic understanding of technology – and an increasing number of jobs available in the field of information technology – it’s becoming more and more important for high school students to take advantage of tech training opportunities.

All computer-related fields are on track to grow faster than average projected job growth through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, jobs in computer networking, systems and database administration are projected to grow by 30 percent. And jobs for computer systems analysts are projected to grow by 20 percent.

Training for tech-related jobs tends to vary by career choice, but one thing’s for sure: Whether students plan to attend college or pursue employment right out of high school, getting as much technology training as possible early on will only help their prospects.

But sometimes the necessary training may not be offered through a traditional high school curriculum, so it’s necessary for parents and students to do some homework when looking for training opportunities. “It may not always be obvious, but there are a few common places to look within your community that can help you get relevant IT training,” says Armando De La Torre, a 2011 graduate of Westwood College, which sponsors programs to send its teachers and students into urban high schools to provide computer networking training.

De La Torre, who currently works as a CSC engineer for ISC Corp., offers the following tips for high school students interested in furthering their technology training:

* Innovative programs offered at high schools. If your high school offers electives in computer networking or other technology training, take advantage of them. Some innovative programs may even offer college credit and computer program certification, which in some cases can lead to a job right out of high school. For example, Westwood College’s 2011-12 school year partnership with two high schools in the Denver Public Schools district and local nonprofit, KidsTek, provides students the opportunity to gain valuable technology skills and earn highly sought after IT certifications (A+, CCENT, CCNA) through the Cisco Academy Curriculum. Students who pass the courses can also earn college credit.

* Opportunities with local businesses. Check with your high school, as well as local business associations such as the chamber of commerce, to see if there are any internships or other tech training opportunities being offered by local businesses. Especially if you’ve already developed some relevant skills, a tech-related internship can be a great way to build your resume and get hands-on training on your way to a technology career.

* Mentoring programs. Ask your teachers or a guidance counselor at your school if there are any professionals who have volunteered with the school to share their knowledge. You may be able to help someone work on a personal project they’ve been looking to tackle and receive training at the same time. Another place to inquire is with a local college, as professors and students there may be involved with mentorship programs that you can take advantage of to build your skills.

* Tech-related extracurricular activities. Since technology comes easily to young minds, some of the best people you can learn from happen to be your peers. Talk with some of your classmates about starting an IT club (or join, if your school already has one) where you can work on projects outside of school. Many schools have also started activities like robotics programs, which can be a great way to learn while having fun with technology.

The world of technology is rapidly evolving, so learning what you can while you are in high school will help you greatly as you move on to the next phase of your life. For more information on current Westwood-sponsored tech programs for high school students, visit www.westwood.edu/community.

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