Jul 05 2018

Colleges Pivot to Train Tomorrow’s IT Experts

A rise in demand-driven education is leading institutions to invest in teaching skills students will need in the workforce of the future.

Higher education is seeing an upswing in requests for more practical, real-world classes and courses with relevant experience as students report not feeling prepared for the real world of IT.

This year, only 41 percent of students felt very prepared to transition into their careers by graduation, according to a new study from McGraw-Hill Education.

Similarly, 43 percent of employers feel confident in the general skills that recent graduates bring to their businesses, emphasizing the need for more realistic training. 

A new approach, demand-driven education, focuses on providing graduates with skills based on what potential employers will need from their new employees.

To give students and employers more confidence in graduates’ abilities, institutions are starting to restructure their education offerings to give students a leg up as they move into the professional IT world.

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Universities Invest in Applicable Majors Regarding Tech Innovation

The world of network management and technology is an ever-changing environment thanks to constant breakthroughs and innovation. 

Some universities are catching on, offering new education pathways for science, technology, engineering and math majors to prepare them for the more modern tools companies use.

At Charleston Southern University, administrators saw the importance of students gaining practical cybersecurity experience in order to be competitive, so they added a major specifically to teach these skills.

The curriculum covers everything from scripting languages to cyber defense, culminating in a senior project designed to test students’ skills against the rigors of real-world cyberthreats, according to a copy of the course load.

“We want students who graduate from CSU to still be relevant in this field 30 years later,” Valerie Sessions, chair for the computer science department, tells CSU Campus News.

Meanwhile, at Northern Virginia Community College, school leaders and a team from Amazon have partnered to establish one of the first degree programs specializing in cloud computing.

Starting in the fall of 2018, students will have access to the two-year program as part of the college’s Information Systems Technology Associate of Applied Science degree. 

The 63-credit program was designed based on skills required by Amazon Web Services and other companies that use cloud technology, according to the press release.

Administrators, government officials and Amazon are excited at the prospect of bringing a new generation of IT professionals to the area.

“A key part of the new Virginia economy is building up our talent pipeline to match our education system, and aligning our training programs around the skills needed, such as cloud computing, for 21st-century jobs,” says Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in the press release. “[T]his collaboration with Amazon Web Services marks an exciting first step in a broader plan to bring cloud computing education to students across the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Boot Camps Offer Preparation for Employment on a Smaller Scale

Higher education is in a state of flux as more students look to boot camps and shorter intensive programs as a way to maximize their learning experience without the burden of student loans.

While some universities see this as an infringement on their institutions, others are embracing the growing idea of intensive weeks-long programs.

“Rather than viewing bootcamps as a threat, higher education should integrate the bootcamp model into the undergraduate experience to prepare graduates with the combinations of knowledge and skills they will need in their careers and lives,” Matthew Rascoff, associate vice provost for digital education and innovation at Duke University, writes in a blog post. 

Other institutions have embraced Rascoff’s approach and teamed up with companies like Trilogy Education Services to empower students to learn skills such as coding through intensive 12- or 24-week programs.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, course graduates leave with a professional certificate and a “robust portfolio of projects to show your mastery of the web development topics covered throughout the program.”

Nearly 30 institutions have started their own boot camps, including the University of Washington, University of Minnesota, University of California Los Angeles and the University of Pennsylvania.

“The Pennovation Center on campus is designed to bridge education with real-world innovation opportunities,” says Rita McGlone, executive director of professional and organizational development at Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, in a press release.

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