A pivot to remote mentorship

For the past three years, Tech Manitoba has worked closely with Pembina Trails Early College (PTEC) as their partner, helping to facilitate industry focused mentorship opportunities for the tech-centric accelerated programming at the high school.

Last year, things looked a little different. The grade 10 students were still able to enter the workplace for a week-long practicum, but as circumstance have significantly changed since March 2020 — with remote work and school, comes remote mentorship.

Project-based mentorship
Working together Tech Manitoba and PTEC, reimagined the entire mentorship program to adapt to a digital world, while still providing the students with tangible experiences.

The project-based mentorship was created to combine the knowledge and skills gained over the school year, with support from working industry professionals on specialized projects.

Over eight weeks, the PTEC students undertook special projects in the areas of AI/Machine Learning, App and Game Development, Hardening Operating Systems and Digital Design, with the goal of developing a product or service that used technology to solve a real-world problem.

Power of Mentors
Each mentor team was comprised of one tech professional and one project management professional to provide guidance on project scope, implementation of project management tools, technical advice (in the area the students were working in) and presentation skills.

Every Friday morning, the mentors checked in with the students on their progress, guiding them to set goals, learn new skills, pivoting when necessary and ultimately support them in creating a working prototype and preparing them for their final presentations to a panel of judges.

Checkout all the project mentors on LinkedIn >>>

The Pitch
Presenting to a panel with expertise in the areas of project management, cybersecurity, game development, machine learning and entrepreneurship, the students were prepped and ready!

Passion, determination and excitement resonated from the screens as the PTEC students presented their projects to a group of industry panelist over a two-day mock pitch session.

From their presentation skills, developed products and thoughtful responses to questions and panelists’ feedback— the panel couldn’t help but be impressed and a bit humbled by the group of burgeoning young professionals.

Lessons learned
Time management, time management, time management. The common thread and biggest takeaway for the students was the importance of time management. Along the way they experienced scope creep and technical roadblocks with the potential to stall progress, but their perseverance and access to mentors helped keep them on track.

The mentors provided confidence and introduced the teams to great tools for collaboration and project management, which some students carried over to support all their academic planning.

Notes from the PTEC Students:

· These projects provided a real experience managing stagnated progress and how to research other tools or shift an approach to keep going.

· Group work and organizing a team can be overwhelming, especially when there are so many great ideas on the table. The mentors were very helpful in guiding us through project role assignments.

· Thinking of the customer / user experience is very important in app development.

· Project management is essential and the backbone of operations — especially when it comes to software development.

Expert Tips:

· Glad to see that the students recognize the value in project management and applied the fundamentals and tools in their planning process.

· Things change all the time; you plan for it go sideways or upside down. Being able to pivot and work through challenges is an essential skill to learn.

· When brainstorming a project, keep in mind to scale down and focus on the minimum viable product that will help solve your problem.

· If you can’t drive towards solving a problem, drive into the utility of the app. If there is a similar app on the market — take time to research. Who’s using it, why are they are using it and why are we going to do it differently?

· Asking for help is good! Seeking advice from mentors and any resources you can get your hands on is important.

That’s a wrap on the 2020–2021 school year and mentorship program — and what a fabulous experience it has been. 🎉

From the mentors:

“The kids are great; they are truly going to be catalysts for future innovation and to be a part of that is awesome. The program support from Marie and Margo was fantastic and I appreciate them both.” — Chris Hoquis

“PTEC/TechMB mentorship program provides an opportunity for students — future tech/ science/IT champions — to gain valuable experience working on a project of their choice under mentorship of industry professionals. Those professionals are constantly surprised by the technical ability, maturity, and creativity of the young creators. The program offers mutual opportunities to the students and the mentors, provides a link between industry and K-12 education, and is simply a very pleasant experience.”

“The amount of student commitment and growth shown during this project was incredible. The combination of desired skills and industry involvement has proven to those around, that there is an appetite and passion for industry to be involved in education.” Jane Bachart — Principal, PTEC.

If you’re interested in helping shape the future of Manitoba’s tech industry by becoming a mentor, connect with us to learn more. We facilitate mentoring opportunities in all shapes, sizes, and time-commitments.

About Pembina Trails Early College
Pembina Trails Early College (PTEC) is a school with accelerated programming in the highly technical streams of software development and cyber defence and networking.

Our school marries the flexibility of high school, the rigor of post-secondary and the support and knowledge of the IT industry to create a comprehensive and authentic experience for students who are interested in the digital world as a career.

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