Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Maritza Agüero & Dasael Alfaro, Instituto Nacional de Formación Profesional (INFOP), Honduras
Instituto Nacional de Formación Profesional (INFOP), the National Institute for Professional Training, is the Honduran government’s vocational training institution. Founded in 1972, INFOP has concentrated for over four decades on providing classroom training for trades requiring manual skills. But in 2018 it grasped the growing demand for technology, created a digital platform for online training, and began forming alliances with computing education organizations.
In February 2020, INFOP became an Oracle Academy partner with the aim to advance computer science in the country and to enable Honduras to build a workforce that has the digital capabilites to compete in the 21st century.
INFOP and Oracle Academy began training teachers in preparation for a campaign to promote computer technology as a new offering across the nation of nine million. An initial cohort of 38 teachers affiliated with INFOP completed 90 hours of virtual training. By year-end these teachers had delivered courses in Java Fundamentals and Database Foundations online to 6,000 young Hondurans.
Oracle Academy is proud to be part of this project to educate and prepare the innovators, leaders, and professionals of the future. The initiative seeks to improve the quality of life and generate better opportunities for all the people in Honduras.
We had the pleasure to meet with Maritza Agüero, INFOP Training Division Director, and Dasael Josue Sandoval Alfaro, an INFOP technology instructor.
Oracle Academy: That’s an impressive number of students trained. What challenges was INFOP facing that gave rise to the computer science training?
Maritza Agüero: Honduras programmers are an endangered species, or were until we started this program. We had to search for them under rocks, with magnifying glasses. Yet our stakeholders, predominantly the Mipymes – micro, small and medium enterprises – were crying out for computer skills.
By helping students develop programming and database skills, we generate better opportunities for all and provide skills and abilities required by today’s careers.
The nickname for one of our main target groups is NiNi, which means Ni Trabajo Ni Estudios – in other words kids who are underage, did not complete their studies, or are unemployed.
Oracle Academy: What steps did you take to find teachers to help deliver the training?
Maritza Agüero: INFOP relies heavily on subcontractors and we used social media to find teachers interested in skilling up in Java and database. Within days, over 50 instructors with the knowledge and interest presented themselves and embarked on an intensive Oracle Academy bootcamp. Dasael was one of them.
Dasael Alfaro: I was among the first group of teachers to get the training. I completed 90 hours of virtual training. It was quite tough at the beginning, because we all have our own jobs, but the reward was immediate. There was massive interest in Java programming and database management. As soon as INFOP announced that these courses were available online and for free, everyone wanted them! It’s been great to be part of the spearhead.
Oracle Academy: What about the students? How did you roll out the online Java and database courses to them?
Maritza Agüero: We used social media and the press to publish dates for enrollment and the timetable of classes. It was a great success. In the first few weeks 3,000 young people signed up from every one of the country’s 18 departments. By the end of 2020, the number had doubled to over 6,000.
Oracle Academy: Did the Cloud help in the delivery of classes?
Dasael Alfaro: Absolutely! We use Oracle Application Express – APEX – on the Oracle Cloud Free Tier through Oracle Academy. It’s a fabulous tool for teaching database and also for SQL practice. It has considerably helped us teachers because with APEX, students leapfrog the need to install and configure a database on their own PCs, most of which aren’t powerful enough for the Oracle database anyway. So many have expressed thanks for needing only a stable internet connection to start playing with an Oracle database. It’s super simple for students and accelerates the process of putting into practice what they have learned from us.
Oracle Academy: And now you will be involved in a train-the-trainer program – getting other teachers up to speed?
Dasael Alfaro: That’s right. From the start, we tried hard to deliver a high level of quality in our teaching and, through word of mouth, the second batch of students were even more motivated. Now there will be a third intake and some of us are currently preparing teachers in other parts of the country. The first 6,000 students came from the highest populated regions of Tegucigalpa in the center and San Pedro Sula in the northwest. In the spring of 2021 we began training 30 more teachers in regions such as the Atlantic seaboard and Ocotepeque, bordering El Salvador and Guatemala.
Maritza Agüero: We also will be expanding our initial offering of Oracle Academy Java Fundamentals and Database Foundations by training the teachers in Java Foundations, Java Programming, and Database Design and Programming with SQL.
Oracle Academy: Sounds like a real push towards supporting economic development. What kind of jobs can they expect to get?
Maritza Agüero: From the job perspective our campaign got noticed. There is huge interest from all sectors, public and private. Programming is a pressing need and we are working with the various chambers of commerce. They recognize that INFOP, with Oracle Academy, is equipping people with up-to-date skills that increase their employability, and technology jobs will help mitigate migration.
We are proud of the result and have been contacted by homologous institutions in other parts of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica – all interested in collaborating with Oracle Academy.
Dasael Alfaro: From the student perspective, they see not only the desire to learn because the courses are free, but to use the training in finding a job or even launching a start-up. I’ve had students ask me ‘How much can I charge as a database consultant?’ or ‘what strategies do professionals use for billing?’ These expressions of ambition show us we’re on the good path.
And on the job front, I have been approached by employers saying, ‘if anyone in your classes stands out, let us know.’ As teachers, we feel honored to be helping the country.
Oracle Academy: How will you measure success?
Maritza Agüero: Obviously as INFOP we are obliged to help people get jobs. That’s the goal. However, it’s not always easy to keep tabs on the last link in the chain, knowing who enters the workforce. But we are working on it. There’s also another measure of success and that’s the number of students who become breadwinners and change the quality of life in their families.
And, finally, programmers are not on the extinction list anymore! We have found them, created them. And we won’t let them go! We still need more to meet demand expressed by the Honduran Private Sector Council, the government and the Mipymes…but as we press ahead in training more teachers and therefore new cohorts of students, we are positive that this project will have great impact. We started at the right time and are not stopping.
Thank you, Maritza Agüero & Dasael Josue Sandoval Alfaro, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.