Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ITC Software Alliance: Industry-Led Education

CS Extras

Our goal is to increase the number and quality of software professionals in Idaho.

Idaho’s software industry is vibrant and expanding. Yet, many are not aware of its growing importance. Today there are many silos of professionals and user groups in Idaho exposing high school students to software, teaching guest lectures at universities, and training their own employees valuable skills. These efforts are inspirational, but can often fade when volunteers don’t feel like they are making the impact originally envisioned. We would like to pool these existing resources, strengthen them with renewed interest from Industry partners in the Idaho Technology Council, and create a community that not only engages high school and university students, but its own members as well.

By helping to build a more vibrant software community through industry led training, we can help retain existing professionals, build a solid pipeline of excellent local talent coming from our Idaho schools and universities, and avoid recruiting from out of state.

The Format

Our format simply pairs Idaho software experts with those seeking enhanced skills and information about software. The format will be flexible – presentations, interactive coding sessions, round table discussions and other discussion and training methods.

Idaho’s software industry employees and leaders are encouraged to volunteer in one of these areas:

  • Encourage teens to consider and pursue a software degree
  • Increase college student’s awareness of a variety of programming skills and knowledge, and showcase exciting career opportunities.
  • Expand existing professional skills with industry-specific presentations, skills and training

Starting early 2011, we’d like to host an event every other month, with focus areas of your interest. Scheduling will be dependent on areas of interest and the best time of year for the target audience. The target audience will vary throughout the year between high school students, university students, and industry peers.

What We Ask of Volunteers

Volunteers will be asked to present (or help present with one or more additional volunteers) one time each year or two. Topics and formats can vary based on the subject matter and the target audience. Volunteers can expect support from the Software Alliance for organizing, scheduling and communicating the sessions and discussions. The Software Alliance will lay the ground work for the volunteers to effectively share their expertise.

Example topics may include:

  • Basics (source code control, debugging techniques)
  • Technologies (languages, frameworks, mobile development, content mgmt)
  • Hands on demonstrations
  • Tips and best practices

We Need Your Help

Interested? Motivated? E-mail me to volunteer or ask questions.

You can also check out Facebook page for the most up to date information.

Still not convinced?

Still reading? The content above was the “short version”, and will be the base message we market in the future and post on our web site. I’m including some of the rational behind the plan below for those interested in more context:

A Successful Partnership

Industry led software education benefits all parties involved, making it a very powerful mechanism.

Benefits to Employers
  • Develop reputations and company name recognition with potential student hires. When students are attending job fairs or looking for internship employment they will recognize companies who have invested time training them in the past. They will also likely know the instructors, and if they enjoyed those instructors they will be more likely to interview and entertain job offers with their company.
  • Help the local community build a bigger job force to hire from, and a job force that has additional skills beyond those taught as part of the student’s course work. This will reduce ramp-up time when educating out-of-college new hires.
  • Students will learn about the active tech community in Boise and many companies that employ software professionals here that they didn’t know existed, resulting in more graduates staying in Idaho and a larger talent pool for all companies to hire from.
  • As the program grows, and is promoted by ITC, employers will be helping draw out of state students to Idaho universities. This in turn can result in a larger pool of students willing to consider Idaho companies for their full time employment.

Benefits to Students
  • ITC Software Alliance seminars will provide free training above and beyond their standard course-work. This will create students with additional “real world” training and make them more marketable when they are interviewing for internships and full time positions.
  • Develop relationships with local companies, many of which will be looking to hire interns and full time employees.
  • Develop a relationship with ITC and have access to its full list of relevant companies when looking for employment.
  • Eventually we would like to have ITC scholarships we can offer students who have engaged us in these training events.

Benefits to Universities
  • Student retention in engineering programs as industry guest speakers motivate students and provide glimpse into what their “real world” working environment and tasks may entail.
  • If successful, this program will differentiate Idaho universities and make them more valuable and attractive to out of state students.
  • Industry training will allow universities to focus on core competencies of the curriculum, while industry volunteers help educate students on specialty, cutting edge topics that the industry needs new students to understand (Python, .NET, Ruby on Rails, etc) for immediate employment (whether as interns or full time employees).

1 comment:

Greg Donohoe said...

I recently attended a CS chair's conference in Utah. There is a large national effort to increase enrollment and retention in CS programs. Too much detail to put here, but some of the key findings are:

1. The best predictors of student success in early programming classes are math skills and prior programming experience.

2. Computer Science is not a required course in most high school programs, and doesn't even count as a science. It's an elective, like shop or band.

3. When "Computer Science" is offered, it is too often focused on using computers (e.g. Microsoft Office), and not on programming them.

4. It's very difficult to find teachers who are competent to teach high school CS, as people with those skills get paid better in industry.

One of the most effective ways to increase the pool of software talent would be to influence the states and local school boards to get the requirements changed.

Since that is a difficult challenge, I applaud ITC's efforts to engage young people through extra-curricular activity.

Greg Donohoe
Chair, Computer Science
University of Idaho
gdonohoe@uidaho.edu
208.885.6501
http://www.uidaho.edu/engr/cs/faculty/GregDonohoe

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