The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) takes every opportunity to extol the value of building relationships with business and industry to make sure program graduates are “right-skilled” to be readily employable. This message is repeatedly drummed to our 50-school CCN (Convergence College Network) community of practice and it’s underscored at just about every educational conference we attend. As regular blog readers know by now, the National CTC strongly believes that an engaged business and industry leadership team (what we call a “BILT”) can provide a variety of essential support to a program.
We recently realized that in 2015, the international computer storage/data management company NetApp delivered four different kinds of invaluable programmatic support to the National CTC.
- A NetApp executive attended quarterly BILT meetings. These meetings identified key business trends, steered IT curriculum specifics, and evaluated the key skills new IT graduates need. Many IT instructors from the CCN community of practice were on those calls and heard this information straight from the BILT. For those who weren’t present, the National CTC helped disseminate the highlights after the fact.
- NetApp graciously covered the costs of providing a trainer for our week-long Summer Working Connections professional development event. This allowed seven faculty members (from five states) to spend a week with NetApp, learn in detail about cloud storage and management, then go back to their home school to teach it to their students. Those who responded to a longitudinal survey six months later reported that the Summer Working Connections training enhanced their knowledge and improved their teaching. One faculty member in particular reported that his school will soon be expanding its cloud storage curriculum as a result.
- Faculty members from the CCN attended the 2015 HI TEC conference in downtown Portland, a 15-minute drive from Hillsboro where NetApp has a brand-new, cutting-edge data center. And so, as a result of the relationship the National CTC developed planning for the Summer Working Connections event, we were able to arrange a VIP site visit of the data center. The site visit included a special presentation of the future of IT by a NetApp executive and a data center tour by one of the engineers that was involved in its design. For CCN faculty already in Portland for the conference, it was a one-of-a-kind experience.
- The NetApp executive who discussed the future of IT kindly delivered a one-hour webinar to the CCN community of practice. His unique outlook on the evolving nature of the IT worker and the IT workspace was so impressive that the National CTC asked him to do it again for a wider audience and those who couldn’t be in Hillsboro. Of those who completed a post-webinar survey, 80% believed it likely that they would use in the classroom what they learned in the webinar.
By all accounts, the NetApp executives who helped with these events found the experiences to be just as positive and fulfilling as the faculty members. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. NetApp wants to make sure students learn the skills NetApp – and their partners – needs in new employees; community college faculty need NetApp’s expertise to make sure that happens. Not every business can get this involved in a program, of course, but it’s a great example of how a business relationship can evolve and deepen, how one engagement can unexpectedly lead to another. And also a great example how all of this together benefits students by getting them workforce-ready.