'Way beyond my dreams': Free technology training in Sask. helps unemployed, underemployed find IT jobs

Adrien Martin was unemployed and felt like he was spinning his wheels, looking for an opportunity to find meaningful work in Saskatoon.

He'd moved back to the city after working in Vancouver in video production, feeling like he'd maxed out his opportunities in that city and finding it too expensive to continue living there.

"The thought of spending years and years in school before even starting an entry-level job wasn't really appealing to me," he said, noting he was 28 at the time and ready to find a career.

He happened to learn about a ComIT — a registered charity that offers short technology courses covering the basics of programming to underemployed or unemployed people — and jumped on the opportunity to take a free three-month information technology (IT) training course in Saskatoon last year.

After finishing the course, he was offered an entry-level position as a software developer with Saskatoon's Skip the Dishes office.

"I feel a lot better. There's a lot of stuff I can do with my career now," he said.

Pablo Listingart is the founder and executive director of ComIT. He had spent time working for companies like IBM and Microsoft, but wanted to help those who are unemployed or underemployed find work in the technology sector.

It struck him as a particular issue for some newcomers to the country.

"They are left out from society because they have survival jobs or no jobs," he said. "They can't even think about getting a formal loan to have studies and have a career."

After coming to Canada from Argentina, he formed the charity in 2016. Since that time, he has launched technology courses in Winnipeg, Kitchener and Saskatoon, with the costs covered by grants from private companies and governments.

Last year's course in Saskatoon was supported by a $20,000 grant through Innovation Saskatchewan.

Anyone can apply for the free training, but Listingart says he wants to help people who not only need the assistance, but who actually want a career in information technology.

They'll get intensive training over three months, and the potential to work with tech firms.

"We have over 80 people working in IT over the three provinces," Listingart said, adding it's "awesome" to see so many people reaching their potential in such a short time of offering the courses.

"It's … way beyond my dreams to be able to do this and help my country, because Canada is my country."

He said he is working to secure further funding, and if successful, will be looking to offer three of the courses each year in Saskatoon and Regina.

The next ComIT course will take place at Regina's Innovation Place, beginning in March.

Martin said three months may seem like a short time, but it was enough to teach the fundamentals and connect him with an employer that was willing to train him further.

"It really meant a lot, because it's a great opportunity to get started in a field that's full of opportunities."

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