IBM i Educational Grant Denied
October 7, 2013 Dan Burger
A Department of Labor grant application that would further the development of a standardized IBM i curriculum that could be implemented at participating colleges and universities has been rejected, sending the grant writing team of IBM midrange advocates back to the drawing boards. Jim Buck, who guides the IBM i educational curriculum at Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, advised me of the setback last week.
To bolster the grant application, 119 companies participated in a survey that prioritized skills that college graduates could possess that would make them candidates for job opportunities. An email was sent to the companies (78 of the 119 provided names and email addresses) explaining that the grant money application had been denied. If approved, the project plans included a strategy for connect colleges with IBM i shops searching for young talent, a standardized curriculum for all specific core subjects along with a certification program, and a teach the teacher program to bring instructors up to speed on modern IBM i technology.
The email also was designed to gauge interest in moving forward with an industry/academic plan to address the skills gap and that with enough interest other funding sources would be pursued. The emails were sent by Deborah Davidson, vice president of the Workforce and Economic Development Division at Gateway Technical College.
Improving the collaboration between IBM i shops that are seeking young talent and the colleges that have IBM i-related courses is at least one positive that can come out of this.
Most colleges have advisory councils made up of companies interested in IT graduates. But most of these advisory councils do not have IBM i shop representatives.
At Gateway College, there are five advisory councils within the IT/CS department. Buck has responsibility for a council that provides feedback and makes suggestions regarding skills they consider most valuable. His council meets twice each year.
Sometimes academia is disconnected from the business world, Buck says. That’s not good for the colleges, the students, or the businesses. There should be a connection that facilitates the learning of applicable skills and an opportunity for good students to get good jobs. In the real world, the purpose of having an IT department in a business is to support that business. Education should play a role in that.
Bring the IBM i shops in for a meeting at the school to help convince administrators that the need to hire graduates exists. Bring in subject matter experts to the classrooms to demonstrate to the students and the administrators that cool stuff can be done with the platform and there are companies that want to hire people who can help them do it.
There are indications of increased interest from IBM i shops based on the Gateway survey. The skills gap has been talked about for years. Connecting the skills pipeline from college to employer should be the first step and one that’s not that big or expensive to make. Without the connection, colleges don’t see any need for classes, curriculum, and instructors for the IBM i, a system few of the college administrators, instructors, and students recognize much less understand.
The efforts to accomplish this first step are left to the small IBM Power Systems Academic Initiative staff, the individual instructors, and a few administrators at the colleges who believe IBM i is worth teaching but who are not reimbursed for efforts to set up advisory councils, and volunteers associated with the COMMON User Group who believe in the value of IBM i education. More staff and more money would not be wasted on these efforts. Let me know where you can find either of those things.