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NetHope Internship Program Provides Haiti With Haitian IT Experts

With the influx of NGOs to Haiti since the January 12 earthquake, there been a shortage of qualified “exotic NGO techs” -- specifically, ones of Haitian descent. But after this Friday’s inaugural NetHope Academy graduation ceremony, 39 young Haitian technophiles will go forth into the information technology industry with internship experience, international certifications from Microsoft’s digital literacy curriculum, and the confidence needed to thrive in the IT industry.

Because of the success of the NetHope five-month internship program in Haiti, which was a pilot program, the technology consulting company Accenture will fund the NetHope Academy in Haiti for two more years. Additionally, they will fund a similar program in Sub-Saharan Africa next year.

According to Frank Schott, Global Program Director of NetHope, the program initially intended to take on 30 interns out of 300 initial applicants. But they accepted another six qualified applicants and, early in the program, another three students came along and asked if they could sit in classes, so they accepted them too. Schott said he found it remarkable that all 39 students successfully completed the program despite trying conditions.

One student who spoke during the ceremony recalled how the lack of electricity and internet service, which is notoriously sporadic in Haiti, would sometimes affect her studies. Some of the students’ internships were based in remote locations like Cite Soleil and Leogane. But they all managed to fulfill their responsibilities despite only one of the 39 having a car — an homage to their dedication, no doubt.

The program began with a two week intensive boot camp where the students completed the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician program, learned customer service skills, attended resume-building and business etiquette workshops, networking skills, and how to operate 2-way radios, among other things.

They then were placed into a 5-month internship with one of 17 companies, including internationally renowned NGOs Habitat for Humanity, the World Health Organization, Save the Children and Oxfam International.

At the time of the NetHope graduation ceremony, 24 out of the 39 students had already secured full-time jobs, many with the organizations they interned with. An additional 8 have job offers they are considering.

(NetHope students during the graduation ceremony. Photo: Arikia MIllikan/Haiti Rewired.)

With the immediate earthquake crisis over, NGOs are now in the process of “taking the expats back and back-filling the spots with trained Haitians,” Schott said.

“One of the things we see is that when a student goes through a certification program, their employability goes up remarkably,” said Lutz Ziob, general Manager of Microsoft, which sponsored the program, provided the curriculum and has donated $3.8M to Haiti. “International certifications make the standards comparable. Any hiring manager has a concept of what our global standards mean.”

“We believe that you can’t build up a country for the 21st century without having digital literacy across the population,” Ziob said. “Hopefully these students are just the tip of the iceberg.”

In the graduation ceremony, the five female graduates received special recognition, as well as one student who was buried under rubble for five days following the earthquake.

(Two NetHope grads checking out a Haiti Rewired info card. Photo: Arikia Millikan/Haiti Rewired)

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