Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Conferees Share Solutions to Technology Staffing Crunch: Some Institutions Resort to "Grow Your Own" Strategy to Deal with Vexing Personnel Problem

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Conferees Share Solutions to Technology Staffing Crunch: Some Institutions Resort to "Grow Your Own" Strategy to Deal with Vexing Personnel Problem

Article excerpt

Conferees Share Solutions to Technology Staffing Crunch: Some institutions resort to "Grow Your Own" Strategy to deal with vexing personnel problem

SEATTLE -- While labor shortages in the computer industry have spurred American businesses to seek solutions by working more closely with higher education institutions, many colleges and universities are also experiencing a severe information technology (IT) worker crunch. And according to a number of presenters at the CAUSE98 conference held here last month, too few answers exist.

The CAUSE98 conference attracted more than 3,700 IT professionals from American two- and four-year higher education institutions. Attendees sought knowledge, networking contacts, and information on how to improve information technology resources and services at their respective campuses.

Although the conference bore the CAUSE name, the priorities of Educause, the successor organization to CAUSE, dominated the agenda. Last July, CAUSE merged with Educom, another higher education information technology association, to form Educause (see Black Issues, Nov. 12, 1998). Addressing the IT labor shortage is one of several issues high on the Educause agenda.

"One of the most crucial IT issues facing higher education is how do you hire and retrain IT staff," said Michael Zastrocky, research director for academic strategies at Gartner Group Inc., during a session on IT strategy for colleges and universities.

Several schools had their senior IT professionals share with conference attendees examples of solutions to IT staffing shortages. Dr. Martin D. Ringle, director of computing and information at Reed College, told attendees that his school has developed an apprenticeship program that teaches nontechnical people computer technology and programming skills. After a required period of apprenticeship, the trained IT employee can pursue job opportunities elsewhere.

Ringle says the program is designed to fulfill internal staffing needs while avoiding competition with businesses that have often lured IT professionals away from Reed College.

"We're making a virtue out of necessity," Ringle says.

Purdue University has created the Information Systems and Technology Education Program to provide existing Purdue employees and non-employees with an opportunity to learn computer technology and programming skills during an intensive summer course. …

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