Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Are you experienced?

In a March 5th press release, Microsoft and Experience announced the creation of a student to business (S2B) portal that connects Microsoft partner companies with students looking for entry-level jobs and internships. Since I'm neither, I'll leave it to instructors and students to check it out. If someone learns a little more about the site, please post some comments here.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

2+2+2 = Bachelor of Applied Science

Over at my No Sno U blog I complain about the proposal to take 20 years and $1 billion to "git us some more of them there college deegrees". My argument is that we can deliver the education people need in a lot less time for a lot less money than building another stand-alone campus. When you factor in the current college drop out rate, a different method of delivering that education might be helpful too. We have one good example already at work.

I sat down with Shani over at the Central Washington University (CWU) Lynnwood campus two weeks ago to talk about their Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management (BAS-ITAM). The program allows students with an Associate's degree in a computer field and 2000 hours of work experience to earn their Bachelor's degree at CWU in a program geared toward working professionals (evening, Saturday, online classes). Here is what I find compelling about the program:

  • The ATA degree is no longer terminal. Formerly the credits you earned for your Associate's of Technical Arts (ATA) degree couldn't be transferred and used toward a bachelor degree. With the BAS-ITAM program those community college students have a path to the additional education they need to move up in their chosen career. It saves both the student and the state money (the state would subsidize 4 years of education, not 6).
  • Not everyone thrives at the ivy-covered university. I loved everything about the university experience, but that's me. There's another 70% of the population that isn't so thrilled to "compare and contrast" great literary works. The BAS-ITAM gives people that are more career focused an opportunity to include their work experience as part of their education. For many people, work experience provides the context and relevance that they need to really learn the material they are studying.
  • It leverages our full educational system. The BAS-ITAM program focuses on managerial and breadth-of-knowledge classes while allowing the community college to focus on the technical classes. Not explicitly stated in the ITAM programs is the fact that high school students can earn both high school and college credit for some of their high school classes through a program called Tech Prep. Both Edmonds CC (EdCC) and Everett CC (EvCC) have Tech Prep programs with local schools. That's a money saving way for students to get a jump start on their associates and focus more of their community college credits on advanced classes or internships. Does the title of this post make sense now? 2 years in high school + 2 years in CC + 2 years at CWU = BAS-ITAM.
  • It focuses on the higher value business skills that are critical in corporate IS. I can't speak to IT in a high-tech company (Microsoft, for example), but the coursework in the program would definitely benefit anyone in corporate IS, whether they wanted to get into management, project management or systems analysis. These are the skills that help an individual demonstrate value to the organization and lift them to the next level of their career. Most important, these are skills that are less likely to get outsourced.
So let's think about this for a minute. With a little planning, a student starting her junior year in high school in the fall of 2008 could have a high school diploma, associates of technical arts in computer information systems, bachelors of applied science in information technology and administrative management, one year internship and two years of work experience by June 2014. How is this not a good thing?

Here is the hard part fellow board members and other IT professionals. We need to step up to the plate and support programs like this by offering internships and hiring the graduates. We need to make sure our employees can use their tuition reimbursement benefit for programs like these. We need to make sure the state funds the work it takes to align high school, community college and university programs so we get the most for our dollar. Finally we need to make sure our top people are participating on advisory boards or guest lecturing, where appropriate, so that the content of courses remains relevant to the corporate IS environment.

I'm not an expert on this, just a board member. Prospective students, whether in high school, a CC or already in the work world, should contact the folks at CWU Lynnwood, CIS program at EdCC or the CIS program at EvCC for all the details.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Links and Resources: March 20, 2008

How about some light reading about the IT profession and career outlook:

  • Hot Jobs in IT for 2008 summarizes findings in a Robert Half's 2008 Salary Survey. They expect starting salaries in IT to rise 5% in 2008.
  • Web 2.0: The skills behind the buzzword talks about the skills and tools an individual would need to support the read/write web. Not real in-depth, but it does use buzzwords to explain the buzzword (meta-buzzwords).
  • Woes Aside, Some Businesses Expect More IT Hiring indicates that although not stellar, there should still be growth in IT hiring in 2008. Top areas include network administration, windows administration, desktop support and database administration.
[A quick note on critical thinking and information literacy. In case you thought "if three different articles say the job outlook is good, it must be so", notice that all three quote the Robert Half survey. That doesn't mean it isn't true, you just want to be skeptical of such things.]

  • Help wanted: Tech companies feel skilled labor shortage documents the large number of IT jobs in IT companies that are going unfilled. Microsoft has the most openings, which it can't fill due to a lack of qualified workers. [Note that this tech shortage is much debated as in separate pro and con articles in InformationWeek.]
  • IT career paths you Never Dreamed of talks about how the changing nature of IT in the organization is changing job titles, responsibilities and organizational hierarchy. If nothing else, it does highlight that IT is not for people who want to plop down in a chair and be told what to do everyday for 35 years.

Certification and Data Management

If you are interested in data management and data management certification you might want to check out the Certify-Able Data Professional blog. This week Eva from the Education Virtually Anywhere blog has been blogging the Data Management Association symposium in San Diego.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Where have all the children gone?

You might enjoy a couple of pieces about computer science education and employment from the March 12th National Public Radio (NPR) news show All Things Considered. The first segment, Computer Science Course Enrollment Dips in U.S., describes the on-going problem of a lack of students in computer science. Ever since the dot com meltdown enrollment in computer science programs have drop dramatically, even as demand for the jobs has rebounded. You will often hear reference to high-demand areas of study, but the problem is that they are in demand by employers, not students. Perhaps the most troubling problem has been the participation of women (and, although not mentioned, non-Asian minority males) in these programs.

The second segment, Bill Gates Targets Visa Rules for Tech Workers, is an interview with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on his call for reform of immigration and increase of H1-B visas available for international students. Although the interview focuses only on the visa issue, his congressional testimony earlier that day dealt with US global competitiveness in technology. His testimony is available here (the first of four points deals with education which you will find starting on page 4 of the document).

Please keep in mind that not every IT/IS job requires a computer science degree, although reading through the jobs ads you might think so. Plenty of people, perhaps most, in corporate setting don't have computer science backgrounds, myself included. That's not to say that Microsoft doesn't need them, they do. It's just that every student in American shouldn't feel as if they need to take that more rigorous course of study to work in technology fields.

Take Bill Gates for instance. He got his degree in, oh that's right, he's a college drop-out. ;-)

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Does education kill creativity?

TED - which stands for technology, entertainment, design - is an annual 4-day conference in which the best and the brightest are given 18 minutes to give the talk of their lives. This is a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson on education and creativity. I found it immensely entertaining, but also a fascinating commentary on the education systems of the industrialized world.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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