CCN Focus: Richard Grotegut, Bay Area Community College Consortium

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As a part of the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) featured blogs, we would like to introduce to you some of our professors and instructor
s in the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. The CCN is a select cohort of community colleges and universities from across the country tha
t connects IT educators with a wealth of resources to enhance their programs. In this
week’s Q&A blog, we’re featuring Richard Grotegut, Consultant and Deputy Sector Navigator (DSN) in the San Francisco Bay Area – Information Technology and Computer Science.

  1. What is a Deputy Sector Navigator?And how long have you been in this position?  The Deputy Sector Navigator (DSN) is part of the statewide initiative called Doing What Matters for Jobs in the Economy and the State. There were several economic sectors that were identified as critical to the state’s employment health. I’m one of the DSNs in the ICT sector, Information Communication Technologies.  In Texas, it is referred to as Convergence Technologies. We adopted the acronym ICT from MPICT that was an NSF sponsored regions center at City College of San Francisco.  Within this ICT sector, there are 10 regions around the state and each region has a DSN for ICT. This is someone who has experience in the sector, has connections with a business industry in that sector, and has some experience working with the community colleges, and is there to help the community colleges in their region improve their ICT programs at their college. There are 114 community colleges in California. We have 2.4 million students and many of them are taking IT classes. We have DSNs – Deputy Sector Navigators in those regions and we meet together, and we explore best practices trying to solve that problem of employment issues in ICT in the state. My region is in the Bay area, it’s Silicon Valley, and I have 28 colleges that I’m here to support in their efforts and to try to get them to work together which is no small task.
  1. Have you ever been a teacher, and if so, how long?  I’ve been this position for nearly 3 years now, although I was a consultant for a year and a half before that and that was after retiring from teaching. I was a teacher for 32 years, teaching in the field. It wasn’t called ICT 32 years ago.   I started in high school, I taught four years in comprehensive high school my first four years of teaching as the “computer teacher.” I always thought that was a funny title because I really wasn’t teaching computers, I was teaching students about them and how to use them. Thirty-two years ago it was quite different.
  1. What sparked your interest in IT/teaching? There was no IT, it was just data processing. I was a math instructor and I really liked computers, how they worked and how to program them. So, I was a programming teacher from the start. I got overwhelmed by the field, so I was in the right place at the right time to really blossom in that area.
  1. What is the secret to successfully teaching IT to students? Hands-on practice. Labs and labs and labs for them to work on, and projects for them to work on together. That was something we always incorporated, especially when I went to the college level where students spent more time hands-on than being lectured to and a lot of time working together with their classmates, the “human network.”  IMG_0656Edit
  1. What’s the biggest challenge managing IT colleges? Finding faculty, we’re struggling right now in particular because employment is so good here in the Bay Area that experts in IT are finding much better opportunities in private industry than teaching. In fact, one of the schools I’m working with they hired a new teacher, and as he was entering his second year, he was compelled to go work in the industry because he had a better offer. He quit the teaching field.  And then, funding has always been a problem for CTE programs because they can be more expensive. They require equipment, supplies and smaller classroom sizes. When colleges are looking overall at their enrollment and funding, they might decide to go with a 100-student sociology class rather than 24-student networking class with a lab requirement so it’s kind of tough.  We’re very fortunate here in California for the first time we have a tremendous amount of money for CTE. That’s part of what’s funding the Deputy Sector Navigators and a lot of the things we’re doing out here that we wouldn’t be able to do without the funding.
  1. What is the Western Academy Support and Training Center (WASTC)? That’s WASTC, it’s connected to the Cisco Network Academy Program of which we are the academy support center, ASC, and the academy training center or ITC, Instructor Training Center. We actually have been around for nearly eight years, and I’m the director of that organization and work with my colleague, Karen Stanton who coordinates the ITC. Together, Karen and I have over 40 years of experience with Cisco Network Academy Program and next fall it will be their 22ndyear in the business. We support schools that are Cisco academies in the state of California. Although we do have some schools that are in Nevada, Arizona and a couple other western states. So, we help them if they need help running their Cisco Academy programs. Right now, we have about 275 schools that are associateed with our support center that offer Cisco Academy classes. I think we’re the largest ASC in the nation in terms of members. And this is high schools, community colleges, universities, adult education programs, vocational technical programs, some private schools as well, we support them all. Those 114 community colleges I mentioned in California, I 68 of them are Cisco Academy. Now what we’ve also done recently over the last three years when MPICT, NSF funded CTE Regional Center in San Francisco closed their doors, their funding ended. We took over their professional development activities. So, we do the winter conference in January. Ann and Mark have participated in that conference; they’re on our planning team. And we also do two week-long trainings in June that are pretty much modeled after Working Connections. It’s a week long, four and a half days. I think you guys go typical three days, but we went the whole week. We do two of those in the summer – one in Northern California and the one in Southern California. We have that planned again for this summer.

Note: To join the invitation list for the National CTC’s Working Connections, email nationalCTC@collin.edu.

  1. How has the CCN helped you?  In a number of ways actually, I was involved with CCN when I was still teaching at Ohlone in Fremont. While I was teaching, we were members of the CCN with Ann that was probably eight-ten years ago. And then, when I retired, I was the contact. They kind of struggle a little bit with how they were going to organize and hiring someone to take over, and that person has been a little too busy to be involved in the CCN now. It was great for me. IT is taught around the world, it isn’t really any different anywhere else. It’s not different in Texas than it is in California. The work that Ann and her team has done is very helpful in guiding me with things that I’ve done out here. The best thing is the community that I’m now part of with CCN. And we do have a couple of members in California, Bill Saichek is from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA. And we have a couple of colleges that try to participate, but it’s been great.
  1. What is the best thing about being a part of CCN?  Probably what I find most enduring about CCN is the BILT model. I’ve embraced that from the very beginning. It just makes perfect sense that we want to have industry leading our development of our curriculum. That’s what we’re trying to do in the Bay region, we’re trying to form a BILT. The name BILT hasn’t really been embraced here, they’re so used to calling them advisories. We’re trying to change that culture a little bit, so we have a Bay ICT Partnership organization. That is a collection of about 25 business folks right now and is led by our Chambers of Commerce.  The Chamber funds our Bay ICT Partnership Director.  We hope to have it serve as one of the required meetings that these colleges have to have in order to get their funding from Perkins and the state-wide funding as well.
  1. What advice would you give a new community college joining CCN?Much of what I just talked about – this is an opportunity to help guide you in your program development. Especially the KSAs – the entry-level IT knowledge, skills, and abilities that the National CTC updates each summer – that have been produced; the opportunity to listening in on National BILT discussion. Overall informing, how to inform you on your program development. There are so many times programs get created in a vacuum, and they might be being advised by an outlierin terms of what’s really happening out there, and they end up developing a program that really doesn’t attract enough students to justify its existence. I’m kind of a conduit of what happens to CCN and I relay those messages to my 28 colleges. Twenty-four of the 28 have IT programs. So, there are 24 colleges that I continuously feed information that I receive through my connection with CCN.
  1. Is there anything you would like to suggest improving the CCN program?  Well, more participation would be great. I want ICT faculty, Convergence Technology faculty and all 114 schools to have access to the resources and information that CCN can provide. I’m hoping to have a greater impact with my schools out here. Especially as we’re scheduled to become one of the regional hubs in the next funding phase. It’s a good opportunity for us, we have funding here of our own to make that happen.
  1. How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next 5 years? Well we know it’s going to change, right? That’s one thing in my 30+ years I’ve discovered. There’s always been this back and forth about where is the control of the computing power? Is it like the old main frame days from early on in IT? Where people just connected with a terminal, there was one big machine that was doing all the processing. We’re kind of back to that a little bit with the cloud. I don’t know that putting all your eggs in one cloud/basket is really the future. I think we’re going to see someone variety in that. A big part going forward is how we interoperate with services in the cloud and then, mobility. What’s going to happen with how we can connect. Being much more mobile is going to be a trend that’s going to continue. And then, figuring out that issue of cybersecurity is something that will have to change. I read that are 40 positions out there for every one trained candidate in cybersecurity so there’s a big gap there. It could take a few years to fill that.
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