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LeagueTLC IT Professional Column
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals

The Collaborative:  A Team Approach to Train High-Tech Workers

William Pritchard, Acting Vice Chancellor, Information Technology, Foothill-De Anza Community College District, CA and Kurt Hueg, Director of Marketing and Communications, Foothill College, CA

The trends are clear and profound. The American population is becoming more and more diverse. More children are enrolling in public schools. Too many adults are entering the workforce with poor basic academic and workplace skills. And the Digital Divide, or documented inequity of access to computers and technology skills by certain groups, threatens to exacerbate social strata and cultural biases. 

Surrounding these trends are growing concerns for the current and future health of America's 21st Century economy and the shortage of information technology (IT) workers. If American companies cannot fill information technology-related jobs with qualified workers, ultimately America's economic competitiveness will suffer. The impact of these forces is seen, heard, and amplified throughout the Silicon Valley of Northern California, home to the greatest computer-based developments and worldwide technological innovations of this era.

With the focus and goal of producing more IT workers from underrepresented groups, Foothill-De Anza Community College District, NASA, San Jose State University (SJSU), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) have formed The Collaborative. As a joint venture of academic, industry, and NASA leadership, the partnership is fusing collective talents and resources to directly address Silicon Valley's critical education and workforce needs through joint research and education programs. 

When One Door Closes

In conjunction with the U.S. Navy base at Moffett Field, NASA has a long history within Santa Clara County as a leading research and science center. Last year's eminent closing of military functions at Moffett Field charged NASA with the development of new services and research avenues relevant to community development. Each member of The Collaborative had established and signed separate planning agreements with NASA for designated programs and services within the NASA Research Park. Crossing traditional boundaries and connecting working relationships, the newly directed NASA leadership provided the impetus for multiple academic partners to leverage strength and establish seamless educational models that address critical demands for education and workforce development from K-12 through associate, baccalaureate, and beyond. 

What to Expect

With relationships and commitment in place, planning processes and implementation follow as the next steps. 

Short-term goals: The Collaborative will use a $100,00 grant from the Packard Foundation to staff initial planning efforts. Over the next 10 months, each institution will invest the equivalent of $50,000 and assign a team of designated faculty and staff to jointly develop programs in engineering, information technology, and education. These newly created programs will provide a transparent path for students to branch learning opportunities and skill development certifications towards internships, research projects, and formal academic degrees.

Long-term goals: The NASA Research Park provides the optimal environment for collaboration as a centralized service and community-based location. The proposed developments include a joint use campus complex, not a university or a community college, but a shared learning facility. Using community and industry resources, the proposed buildings will be developed with a broader vision and as world-class facilities to house teaching, research, and economic development programs for the Silicon Valley and the State of California. Members of The Collaborative will coordinate development activities to raise money and offer mutual funding plans for the shared use facilities with the NASA Research Park. 

Recognizing the time, energy, and investment of The Collaborative, Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Dr. Leo Chavez claims, "In terms of workforce preparation, higher education should go the extra mile to meet the needs of our community, especially to prepare underrepresented groups and minorities for high-tech jobs."

 

 

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