Turning Passion into Profession
Swiss I.T. Academy Inc. is an organization that offers programs and short courses on Information Technology. Since 2015, they have been working to fulfill their mission “to provide immediate but efficient educational facilities to all constituents especially, [to] those [who] are underprivileged.
Getting to Know Swiss I.T.
Swiss I.T. Academy Inc. is an organization that offers programs and short courses on Information Technology.
Since 2015, they have been working to fulfill their mission “to provide immediate but efficient educational facilities to all constituents especially, [to] those [who] are underprivileged.” Focusing on groups who have limited access to IT training, they run caravans and build partnerships with the local government and schools across the country, to provide IT courses. They envision a future where companies from different regions will no longer outsource IT professionals from Metro Manila, because competent and well-trained individuals can be found anywhere. Teaching what their Assistant Managing Director, HP Cortez, calls “Best Practice I.T.”, they focus on honing their students’ skills in web design, and contact center services. These are skills which they think are highly needed by different industries, and would enable students to compete in the international scene.
This year, their mission brings them to people who lack access to training because of their geographical locations, but also to those who lack training opportunities because of their disability.
All this began when they came across www.daretohiremenow.com, Project Inclusion’s job-matching website for Persons with Disability (PWDs).
“[One of our advocacies is to] give the unprivileged the right to be educated and employed… at bigyan sila ng chance [dahil] sila yung isa rin sa mga tao na merong mga potential,” shares employees Liz Morales, Education Specialist, and Assistant Project Manager Alex Panzo. They said, “Kahit meron silang disabilities, they have also talents and skills, at kaya nilang gawin yung hindi nagagawa ng [ibang] tao.” (Even though they have disabilities, they also have the talents and the skills which allow them to do what others cannot.)
One of the courses they offer is Visual Graphics, which includes training in logo creation, branding, and packaging. After hearing about Project Inclusion, they thought to extend their expertise to PWDs. Liz and Alex shared, “[We would also like to] discover potential, hindi lang sa talagang neurotypicals … We want to open possibilities to people na hindi masyadong pinapansin ng lipunan,” ([We would also like to] discover potentials, not only from neurotypicals… We want to open possibilities to people who are often overlooked by society).
Characters in the Classroom
The Visual Graphic course includes a five-month training and NC II accreditation, if they pass the test at the end of the training. The class has 12 scholars, and seven of them are persons with autism.
This is the first time Swiss I.T. trained PWDs, and the first time they had a class that combined students with and without disability. Did disability prove to be a disadvantage? Alex and Liz didn’t think so, sharing that their disability actually became an advantage, and as they were keener on getting everything right.
According to Alex and Liz, the PWDs are also more creative and more active when it comes to participating in class. “Mga students namin dito, kung mapapansin mo sila, mas creative pa sila kaysa sa iba. They see something that we don’t see. They can elaborate [on] it more, and they can express it more. That’s part of [our] inspiration. We try to turn their passion into a profession.” (If you notice our students, they are more creative than other people. They see something that we don’t see. They can elaborate [on] it more, and they can express it more. That’s part of [our] inspiration. We try to turn their passion into a profession.)
Such was the case of Kim, one of the students who has autism. Despite having other TESDA accreditations, Kim chose to push through with graphic design because she really loved it. Her instructor observed that she is getting better each day, and he could see that she really loves what she is doing.
Other students with autism are also commended for working really fast, like Girlie, who often takes initiative to help her other classmates once she is done with her own tasks.
The instructors also observed that neurotypical students tend to have inhibitions about asking questions in class, but PWAs ask frequent questions—about anything and everything.
Because of the enthusiastic questions of PWAs, the class also becomes more interactive and engaging, for both PWAs and neurotypicals. According to Judy Ann, Jhona, and Lei, the three neurotypical students, studying with the PWAs was fun. Although the PWAs are talkative, they do not disturb other students. They are also treated the same as any other students, and overall the experience is positive for them.
Better Students, Better Teachers
While the course is a learning experience for the students, teaching students with autism also taught Swiss I.T. instructors to become more patient, disciplined, and creative. Teacher Fonacier Balatero says it is as much a joy it is as it is a challenge for him. Every day is different, and each day he has to do a different approach. Some of the students have short attention spans. Some of them tend to ask about unrelated topics in class. As their instructor, Fon has to stay updated on different topics to keep them engaged. He also has to be able to direct the conversation back to the assigned topic for the day.
Each day, the instructors try to make sure that each student understands the topic before moving to the next one. Fon shares that when teaching neurotypical students, he simply gives his input on their work to help them improve. He uses a different tactic when it comes to the students with autism, because he realized that they are sensitive and that they respond better to positive feedback. Although he teaches them in the same way, his approach to critiquing their work differs per student, depending on what they need in order to improve.
Role in Employment
Swiss I.T. shares that their goal does not end with the training, but in seeing their students through until employment. Thus, they partner with different institutions and try to keep in touch with their graduates as well. They also provide on-the-job training, so students can apply their skills in a workplace environment.
As of this writing, the pioneer batch of students from Project Inclusion will finish their visual graphics training. This training is no guarantee that they will land a job. However, because both Swiss I.T. and the PWD students took a chance on this training, the PWDs have a better chance of getting employed. With the right job match, they may find a company that values their skill and contribution as unique individuals.
Thrice a week, classes continue. New designs are created. New questions are asked. Every day is interesting, as both students and teachers learn from each other. And this is all because one organization had the heart to look at PWDs, and saw persons with talent, determination, and passion to create something new and something beautiful.
Ceara is an intern at the Unilab Foundation. She is an incoming senior student at the Ateneo de Manila University, studying AB Literature in English. A night owl and a binge-watcher/reader, she often stays late at night to write stories, read novels, and watch films, series, anime, or dramas. She dreams of traveling around the world with her family and their two beloved dogs, Merlin and Sheldon.