Getting networkers when they're young

In an effort to prepare more high-school, college and TAFE students for IT careers, particularly in the data networking field, RMIT University and 3Com have teamed up to offer NetPrep.

The NetPrep program functions as a "train the trainer" program which equips teachers to teach computer data networking subjects in their schools and colleges.

"The real aim of the NetPrep program is to increase the number of students doing IT at a school level and taking it on to the university level if they choose to," said Professor Bill Appelbe, RMIT's head of Department of Computer Science. Students will qualify with an industry-standard certificate at the completion of the program.

"It caters for both students going on to university and those who are not. Their NetPrep qualification will make them very employable in the network administration and support industry," according to Murray Baum, 3Com's national industry development manager.

3Com provides the curriculum which includes course materials, textbooks and CD-ROMs while RMIT will provide subsidised training to the teachers undergoing the program. Despite 3Com's role in creating the curriculum, Appelbe insists that the Netprep syllabus is standards-based and vendor-neutral.

The company will also supply subsidised data networking lab equipment for schools and colleges which includes two routers, two switches, network interface cards and network management tools. The curriculum was created in the US by 3Com and Westnet Technologies, an educator writer, according to Baum. Due to its success in the US, the company is making it available globally.

3Com is currently in discussions with the Victorian Board of Studies to get the NetPrep program certified as a TAFE course. NetPrep is also not currently offered as a VCE subject but it is possible that it may be in the future, Appelbe and Baum said.

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