By Wendy Porter, ICT-DM Regional Director, Far North Region
Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our Far North Colleges we continue to make progress toward improving our Community College IT programs. This is a focused effort to help our students land the fast-emerging IT jobs in the wake of COVID and the rising need for IT and cybersecurity skills. Keeping current technology curriculum up to date in our classrooms is one of the hardest challenges we face. Taking advantage of industry created competency-based curriculum solutions like the Google IT Support Professional Certificate Program is a way toward solving this long-existing problem in our schools.
This program is offered by the non-profit arm of Google (Grow with Google) and it is important to note that the curriculum is not specific to Google products. The content introduces learners to troubleshooting, customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration and security and is intended for beginners – no prior experience is required. It is a partnership with CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), the leading provider of vendor-neutral IT certifications in the world and the content aligns with the IT Model Curriculum approved by the Chancellor’s Office.
Butte College lead the way by offering this content for credit, embedded in their existing IT courses this past fall and we are excited to watch Lassen College and College of the Siskiyous offer the course this spring semester in both non-credit and not-for-credit capacities. This initial regional approach was made possible by support from JFF (Jobs for the Future) and is a virtual jetpack, taking students from beginner to IT job-ready in as little as one semester. Going forward this spring the content will be offered free for any college to utilize through Canvas.
Our local tech industry partners like Build.com and Lulus are particularly excited about the program because they believe the Google name will help attract students who normally do not go into the tech field. They are supporting the effort to diversify their tech teams and bring in more women and multi-ethnic talent. They are also excited about the customer support component which is such a critical skill set need in their tech teams.
“This is a win-win,” says industry partner Brent Largent, President of the Chico IT company Stratti. He has hired about 40 students over the years from Butte College’s Computer Science department and is excited to see what students will learn in the Google program. “Any efficient route to gaining an understanding of technology is great.”
Another amazing opportunity with this program is that completers gain access to a resume builder, mock interviews, and a job platform where they can apply to over 50 partnering national industry partners.
Since IT is a rapidly changing field, adapting ready-built, innovative courses has been a massive boon for students who need an upgrade or have lost their jobs and need to pivot. Displaced workers and up-skillers are a big focus this year. The Far North colleges have notoriously struggled to find faculty to develop, teach, and keep current their CS programs especially in our more rural communities. Utilizing this industry created and supported content helps us take a giant leap forward in solving this challenge.
“Students get a free certificate, which is really good for their resumes and their confidence,” says Linda Fischer, Butte College Computer Science Instructor. And according Fischer, the quick certification will only enhance their career paths. “All of my students end up getting employed before they complete their degrees — there is that much of a need.”
Out of the 102 community colleges across the country who offered the course in 2020, Butte was one of two schools chosen to present how the program is transforming their rural community at the JFF best practice wrap up event this December.
“The Far North Consortium has been an ambitious, strategic, and true community college leader in our national efforts to implement the Google IT Support Professional Certificate,” says Mara Lockowandt PhD and JFF Program Director. “As the lead, Butte College rapidly mobilized to align and integrate the curriculum as part of a credit-bearing pathway and generate interest above and beyond expectations. Specifically targeting dislocated workers, the Butte team is playing a critical role in supporting economic recovery efforts in the Far North. With now up to 2 additional colleges in the Far North planning to build off Butte’s early implementation, there is the exciting prospect of strengthening an IT workforce throughout the region.”
In this tumultuous time, we are looking for any positive outcomes for the future. There is a glaring beacon of hope for our rural communities within the tech industry. While virtual work opportunities grow, we are looking forward to our rural students taking advantage of tech education and seeking remote and virtual tech careers so they can stay local and uplift their local economies with high salaries.
Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more. You can visit this site to learn more but remember that the program is now offered free for the community college community via Qwiklabs and Canvas.