This is long overdue, but last month I participated in the Dean’s Council for Information Technology, a meeting designed to help guide the future of the IT programs at NSCC. As an NSCC grad, I was obviously very interested in what would be said and what would be accomplished.
For starters, there was an alternate reasoning behind this meeting other than just the improvement of the course. Enrollment in the IT programs is down, going from around 550 the year I started to just over 300 this year, a significant drop over just four years. Meanwhile, demand is up, with big boys like Keane and RIM moving in and smaller IT shops and needs popping up all the time. There’s a widening gap between the demands of industry and the supply that NSCC can provide of trained professionals. So a lot of the meeting focused on trying to find ways to attract students and fit the needs of industry. I won’t go as far as calling this a knee-jerk reaction to the dropping numbers, as this is probably similar to what I would have done, with a few changes.
The glaring issue that I had with the meeting shortly after all intentions and purposes were revealed is this: I was the closest they had to an NSCC student. I’ll let that sink in for a second. Here we had a meeting which quite frankly was called to figure out how to attract students and I was the closest thing they had to a student. I made sure to mention in the closing survey that getting leaders amongst the student body would help provide the necessary knowledge and insight into the needs and wants of actual students from their courses.
That’s not to say that the whole thing was worthless. I think it was a good starting point, with the potential (and hopefully possibility) for a lot more work in the future. The idea of partnering larger businesses with the college and the students in a cost-sharing internship/co-op/work term solution was floated, which I think was an excellent idea and deserves further pursuit and consideration. My decision to enter the IT field would have been a lot easier had I know for sure that there was guaranteed employment at the other end, so guaranteed that said employer covered the cost of my books or something. Obviously there would have to be some sort of protection in place for the company, to ensure they do not end up with a dud, so things like required outcomes from the courses (project work? marks?) and maybe interviews for these opportunities come into play.
That said, a lot of the feedback given by the industry types was about things that the college already covers. Talk of needing employees who can talk to customers (hello Technical Presentations), employees who understand the whole aspect of design and development (SAAD class), employees with a general knowledge of the other streams of IT (Database, OS, Web Design). These are all courses that I took and I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t still be offered. Maybe a few extra courses on business, but that’s really the only thing lacking. In fact, with the new way of having a combined IT program for first year and then splitting into concentrations for the second year, it in fact forces more well-rounded employees, although I think you miss out a bit on any one focus that could be key for employability (is that a word?)
Of course, you can’t expect that industry types, managers and so on, be familiar or care with the current offering from the college, they are merely there to say what they want and need. However, I think the whole thing would be more productive if, perhaps, there was a smaller group, more focused and knowledgeable about the college, while also aware and involved in the real industry. These would be the people who are there to better the college and then the industry, instead of just concerning themselves with the needs of their particular company (which is where I think a lot of the other folks were coming from).
As I’ve said, I think this meeting was a start. My hope is that there’s a lot of room for growth from here. My own experience with the college over the years has been rocky at times. When I was a student, I was often vocal about the direction of both my course and the college in general. Looking back, I think the apt term is shit disturber, although my former prof, Ian assures me that it was more me ‘giving a damn about my education.’ My own attempts to get what I wanted out of the course had mixed results and I think the diploma and learning that I received could have been drastically improved. This cannot be blamed on any one thing, be it myself, the faculty, a lack of any sort of opportunity or particular courses (either missing or should have been missing), there were just many extra challenges and difficulties that frustrated me and even now, although I cannot think of particular examples, I amy not completely satisfied with my time at the college. That all said, I cannot ignore the fact that my time with the college was instrumental in getting me employed today.
That said, I look forward to continuing the pursuit of this Dean’s Council and hopefully, help mold the future enough so that upcoming NSCC IT students have a better go at it all than I did.
To close this off, as there’s no where else to put this:
I stumbled upon Ian’s Blog, and while I haven’t read it all and I’m terrible at keeping up to date at these things, a lot of it interests me and makes sense.
If I ever want to (re?)enter the field of programming and development, now is the time. There’s such a need for .NET guys in Halifax that I was pretty much offered three jobs at this meeting if I ever wanted them. Like my experience with the college, I hold an uneasy relationship with programming in general and probably would never pursue this although it does appear to be an interesting (and financially appealing) option.