Toronto woman drives ICDL from homeless shelter to IT career

A Canadian mother who once lived with her family in a homeless shelter has managed to win international recognition for her computer skills, work towards a college diploma and land a job at IBM.

Anne Mercer of Toronto was in Zurich last week to be recognized for having completed the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) certification. Mercer received 36 out of 40 votes in a competition that included candidates from 140 countries. The award honours those whose lives have been positively influenced through ICDL training.

Since it launched in Canada about five years ago, ICDL has found a strong supporter in the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), which has been helping promote it as a means of developing entry-level IT skills. The government of New Brunswick, for example, recently said it would conduct a six-month pilot project in four different departments. The certification follows a seven-module course: an introductory knowledge module that imparts the capacity to understand piracy, privacy and issues such as buying a computer; and six more technical modules that cover desktop productivity tools and databases, backing up data, security practices, and Internet and e-mail use.

Mercer was introduced to ICDL through Homeward Bound, a program designed to help women and their children transition from shelter life to economic self-sufficiency offered through Toronto-based Woodgreen Community Services. The program includes employment training, transitional housing, on-site child care and one-on-one counselling for the mothers and their children. Earlier this year, ICDL Canada subjected Woodgreen to an audit to ensure its training met with its standards.

Mercer was unavailable for comment at press time, but in a video recording in which she was recognized for her achievement at Woodgreen’s annual general meeting, Mercer expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to pursue an IT career.

“We’re working really hard to come through for you guys,” she said. “I’ve used my learning from ICDL every single day, with every project, with every time I turned on the computer.”

ICDL Canada president Bryn Jones said about 16 women at Woodgreen studied through ICDL. Those who completed their certification were given advanced standing and transfer credits for diploma programs at Seneca College, where many are pursuing IT-related courses and business studies. Another 16 will enter Seneca this spring.

“They’ve broken out of the cycle,” he said. “These are the people who are assumed to have been stuck and not necessarily capable of being successfully employed. That’s what makes it such an outstanding story.”

In her speech, Mercer said ICDL both provided women at Woodgreen a way to pursue postgraduate education and a boost to their self-esteem.

“It was the first step in us showing to ourselves and to everyone else that we could go through with this program for the full three years and really accomplish what we said we could accomplish,” she said.

Jones said Mercer has since taken part in an internship with IBM Canada, and will be employed by Big Blue after she completes her studies at Seneca. 

ICDL has conducted more than 20 million tests and has issued about five million of its Skills Cards. Another one million participants are expected this year. Other educational institutions to validate the skills of ICDL participants include Centennial College’s School of Business and the Colleges of Ontario Network for Education and Training (CON*NECT), representing the province’s 24 publicly funded colleges.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+