NOT ONLY university graduates, but under-privileged school leavers can become information technology experts in the workforce. To prepare jobless youth and school leavers for eventual employment, Microsoft Hong Kong joined hands with five non-governmental organisa-tions to offer a series of free IT training courses - the IT Dreams Program - which started last December. The campaign finished last week and covered computer knowledge ranging from the basics of operating a desktop system to in-depth IT under-standing of network systems. One thousand young people aged 18 to 25 were given six to 18 hours of computer training. As a result, eight of them have been employed by a local IT training company. Casper Wong Kit-hang, 19, one of the graduates of the programme who found work as a training assistant, recalled the hard time he had job hunting after he graduated from Form Five. 'I sent out many applications, but I still couldn't find a job,' he said. After doing the course, his computer knowledge gave him a competitive edge and boosted his self-confidence, making it easier for him to find a job. Another student, Helen Wong, said her IT skills had helped her develop trouble-shooting skills in her daily life. The five organisations involved in the project were Caritas Hong Kong, Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, the Boys' and Girls' Association of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and the Salvation Army. Major Alfred TsangHing-man, general secretary of the Salvation Army (Hong Kong and Macau Command), said participants gained more than just IT knowledge from the programme. 'They now understand that computer techniques are critical for a person to find a job. More importantly, they understand they have to equip themselves to match the needs and trends of society,' he said. Apart from training skills, graduates are qualified to handle administrative tasks, simple management jobs, equipment operation and maintenance work, according to Mark Phibbs, managing director of Microsoft Hong Kong. Mr Phibbs said Hong Kong people should also ensure that they have good language skills on top of their IT knowledge. 'They should realise that employers are looking for two things: talent and skills, and attitude and passion,' he said. 'One without the other will not make a success.'