Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 3, 2014

Mentorship program may sprout careers in computers

It’s not difficult to get lost in a conversation with Sam Fleming and Mannie Sharma about computers.

By Stephanie Waddell on January 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

ON THE JOB – Mannie Sharma and Sam Fleming (foreground, left to right) have been doing an apprenticeship at MEADIAsolutions. Left rear is Computers for Schools supervisor Jason Hurtig, who worked with Fleming last summer, and MEADIAsolutions owner Trevor Meade-Robbins (right rear).

It’s not difficult to get lost in a conversation with Sam Fleming and Mannie Sharma about computers.

There’s no doubt the 12- and 13-year-olds know their stuff, and while they may not yet be legally old enough to hold a job, there’s little doubt each of them could be setting themselves up for a career in the field.

The two are part of a mentorship at MEADIAsolutions, the local shop that sells, services and repairs Mac products.

MEADIAsolutions owner Trevor Mead-Robins said the apprenticeship program, which he is working to make more formal and looking at potentially partnering with the Department of Education on, comes after another apprentice graduated. That person has since been employed by another local business working in computers.

Computers which can’t be refurbished are sent out to be recycled.

With the first apprenticeship at the store so successful, Mead-Robins said, he was a little sad to see it come to an end when Fleming and Sharma showed up at his shop within a short span of one another.

Fleming had spent much of his summer volunteering at Computers For School (which refurbishes old computers for schools and non-profits) thanks to a call his mom made to the group wondering if her son could gain some experience there.

As Fleming recalled in an interview shortly before the holidays, he’s had a long-time fascination with computers. In Grade 4, he created his first website, going on to become the informal “class tech” after that.

Computers for Schools supervisor Jason Hurtig said he often gets calls about volunteering that don’t end up amounting to much.

In this case, however, over the course of the summer, Fleming ended up spending many hours working on computers – including getting one with severe water damage – running again.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Hurtig recalled of the water-damaged piece, noting he had his own doubts about it operating again.

Along with the work that comes at Computers for Schools, Fleming had some time to play around with various parts and pieces. By the end of the season, he had created a “Frankenbook”, as it’s been dubbed by Mead-Robins.

It was that computer that impressed Mead-Robins when Fleming showed up looking to gain more experience on Macs.

Meanwhile, Sharma had spent much of his time learning about all things Apple. He’d read Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ book and researched everything he could about Macs, including contacting Mead-Robins through Facebook.

When he came into the store to find out if there was any sort of program or opportunities for him at MEADIAsolutions, it was his troubleshooting skills that greatly impressed Mead-Robins.

“He didn’t miss anything,” Mead-Robins recalled.

Given their interest, Mead-Robins decided to move ahead with bringing them in as apprentices.

That meant meeting their parents and discussing what it would mean.

As he noted, an apprenticeship is not a job, but rather an opportunity to learn, gain experience and have some fun as well.

With that in mind, Mead-Robins said he didn’t want the time Sharma and Fleming spent in the store to interfere with other activities they are involved with so he has kept the apprenticeship to once a week after school.

“A lot of it has been on the fly,” he acknowledged of what the program has entailed, noting he is working on a more formal program for the future.

Given their different interests – Sharma enjoys dealing with customers and helping them decide on various products while Fleming loves learning about the inner workings of the machines – the two have spent much of their time in different areas of the shop.

Sharma is often out in the front at product displays and there to greet and help customers when they come in while Fleming spends much of his time in the back, where repairs and servicing are done working with the staff at MEADIAsolutions.

Mead-Robins noted the two could eventually move into other areas of the shop.

It’s something neither ruled out, though both clearly have their primary interests at heart.

The two apprentices have also taken advantage of online opportunities that have come with the apprenticeship and become Apple-certified product professionals.

While both Fleming and Sharma aren’t entirely sure which career path they will eventually head down, both acknowledged they are starting to see the job opportunities that are in the field.

As Fleming said, he really started volunteering for Computers For Schools because he just enjoys working on computers and finding out what he can do with them.

He smiled as he recalled when he “by accident, but not really by accident” “nuked everything” on his computer and worked to get another system up and running. He then went on to talk of being able to “do anything” using apple, command, prompt.

“He’s really getting into super-geek mode now,” Mead-Robins said.

Sharma is also excelling in the field with a ranking of 128 out of the tens of thousands of people around the world who do the work to become Apple-certified product professionals.

“It was really impressive,” Mead-Robbins said.

While both Sharma and Fleming are exceptional in the field, Hurtig pointed out that many kids today are “born” with very user-friendly computer devices in hand.

“You can’t stop some of these kids,” he said, as Fleming and Sharma both proved his point excitedly talking about software, tablets and other devices and just how much can be done with them.

They both also noted they are enjoying the opportunities and are looking forward to learning much more as the apprenticeships continue.

Fleming’s mother, Michelle Clusiau, and Sharma’s father, Yesh, noted they’re happy to see their sons have the opportunity to pursue their interest in computers through the apprenticeship program.

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