Magazine article Techniques

Winning Partnerships

Magazine article Techniques

Winning Partnerships

Article excerpt

When IT companies partner with high schools, the students get the necessary career training for future success, and the companies get a skilled workforce for the future. So, ultimately, everyone wins.

At a time when many businesses are looking to foreign workers to fill technical jobs, many local technical companies are finding the talent they need right in their own backyards. Technical businesses are teaming up with high schools to teach students skills that will make them marketable in today's economy and in their local communities.

According to the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), the demand for IT workers is large and continues to grow.

Employers attempted to fill 1.6 million IT jobs in 2000. The greatest need for skilled IT workers is in smaller non-IT companies.

"This group has the highest skills gap; managers from these firms reported the highest rate of unqualified applicants and the greatest difficulty in filling positions," reports the ITAA.

And among the most desired jobs are those requiring technical support skills, which include troubleshooting, facilitation/customer service, hardware/software installation, configuration upgrades and systems operations. In addition, demand for workers with Web-related skills is now almost 13 percent of all IT jobs. Technical support positions and network administration make up 50 percent of all jobs in the field.

Partnerships between high schools and private high-tech companies are proving to be one way to ensure that students are learning skills relevant to today's workplace. Following are three examples of high school-company partnerships that are working together to train tomorrow's technical workforce.

Local entrepreneur helps

students gain skills and

serve community

Six years ago, the Stillwater Oklahoma School District wrote its first technology plan as part of a community-wide effort to make Stillwater, Oklahoma, attractive to high-tech business. The community leaders envisioned Stillwater becoming a "Silicon Prairie" and believed that an excellent school district was vital to attracting qualified professionals and high-tech businesses to the area.

"Our goal was to make sure students had the skills they needed to be competitive once they left the district," says Jim Ryan, technology director for the Stillwater Public Schools in Central Oklahoma. The school district has gone from no computers five years ago to 1,200 computers today. The Stillwater high-tech initiative has helped beef up the entire community's technical infrastructure, says Ryan.

"The fruits of partnership has been a huge fiber optic network that connects all the school buildings, the city buildings, and the hospital; all nonprofits are attached to this network," says Ryan. "It's being expanded to include for-profit industries in the community as well."

To help the school district meet its education goals, local software company entrepreneur Russ Teubner donated $40,000 toward putting a wireless local area network in the high school and purchasing 40 Dell laptop computers. The grant also funded a special teacher to develop a curriculum in Web design.

Teubner looked upon the donation as an investment in his future workforce, says Ryan. To create highly qualified professionals, Ryan says that Teubner saw a stellar school system as a way to first attract their interest.

"A strong vibrant school district is one of his best selling cards," says Ryan. The school district was recently ranked as one of the top school districts in the nation by the Wall Street Journal.

Twenty of the laptop computers are devoted to students who sign up for the Web design course. The remainder of the laptops can be checked out by teachers and students through the library. In the Web design course, students learn the hypertext markup language (HTML) used to write code for Web pages as well as the most popular software packages being used today to create elaborate Web sites. …

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