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Georgia’s University System Responds to Information Technology Dilemma

Atlanta — May 13, 1998

University System of Georgia officials have developed a two-pronged strategy to position the state’s public higher education system as an Information Age leader, by tackling state wide and national shortages of information technology (IT) professionals. The innovative initiative combines the launching of several new academic programs approved today (May 13) by the Board of Regents at their monthly meeting,with an accelerated work force development strategy approved by the board last month.

The newly approved academic programs range from certificates to master’s degrees, and will be offered by Clayton College and State University, Dalton College, Southern Polytechnic State University, and Kennesaw State University. Several accelerated programs will be offered by East Georgia College, Macon State College, Southern Polytechnic, and Valdosta State University, under the auspices of the University System of Georgia’s Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP).

The University System’s efforts all are aimed at dramatically increasing – both in the short and long term – the number of qualified potential employees being supplied to the information technology industry and other businesses which utilize IT professionals. The degree programs and course offerings also should enhance the preparation of System graduates for today’s technologically focused work place.

The critical response is being spurred by work force assessments that have identified a severe hiring and retention problem in the leading-edge information technology sectors. According to a recent study co-sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), the leading information technology professional association, nearly 350,000 vacancies exist nationally in three core IT occupational clusters: programmers, system analysts and computer scientists/engineers. In Georgia, the University System produces approximately 1,100 graduates per year to meet a conservative estimated demand for 3,000 new IT professionals annually.

“The information technology shortage is an economic development issue that is not only impacting Georgia, but nearly every state in the nation,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Stephen R. Portch. “The state that shapes an effective response to this person-and-brain-power shortage will have the single most dominant edge in the economic development arena,” he stated.

The six new programs approved today include these offerings from the following institutions:

Clayton College & State University is spearheading a “career ladder” response that will be offered out of a new administrative unit, the New College for Economic and Community Development, including:

  • A Certificate in Information Technology, which will require one year of full-time enrollment and incorporate industry-specific certifications such as Microsoft, Oracle and Novell into several courses that encompass intermediate computer applications, networking, database, systems analysis, and an introduction to programming language.

  • An Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology degree, which will require two years of study that encompass 60 hours of curriculum in such areas as software development, advanced programming, networking and client/server systems, and human-computer interaction.

  • A Bachelor of Information Technology degree, requiring 120-semester hours of credit wherein students gain core skills central to the information technology field combined with a student specialization. Working with business partners, students will develop projects in actual work environments, and assemble portfolios representing their skills.

Dalton College, one of the University System’s two-year colleges, will launch an industry-specific response, to meet the information technology needs of Dalton-area carpet industry companies. The new program will offer:

  • An Associate of Applied Science in Computer Networking Technology, consisting of a 64-hour program that will prepare students to install, operate, administer and service computer networks in business and industrial applications. Instructional areas to be addressed include Internet, Web pages and servers, local/wide/multiple-area networks, e-mail systems, intranet programming,and network management using Windows NT and Novell NetWare.

Southern Polytechnic State University is responding to the needs of an emerging industry in which Georgia has decided to compete, by offering:

  • A Bachelor of Science degree in Telecommunication Engineering Technology, which will support the University System’s ability to meet the work force needs of key global companies in Georgia which are leaders in the wireless telecommunications industry. The 128-semester-hours program will be an interdisciplinary degree offering of the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology, combining electrical and computer engineering technology courses with management course work related specifically to the telecommunications industry.

Kennesaw State University will offer an advanced degree program for those seeking to gain or enhance their information system technologies skills without disrupting their careers, by offering:

  • A Master of Science in Information Systems, encompassing 36 hours of courses in the Department of Computer Science. Graduates will be skilled in hypermedia development (i.e., worldwide web application development), legacy system re-engineering (i.e., Year 2000 project management), and telecommunications design, implementation and data support. All students will complete projects enabling them to apply course work to a real-world system.

Dr. Richard A. Skinner, president of Clayton College and State University and chair of a national task force convened by ITAA to address the IT dilemma, is proud of the University System’s initiative. “We are positioning the University System to respond to the state’s needs for IT professionals in new and creative ways,” he stated. “Georgia is incredibly rich in technology infrastructure. We will capitalize on this technology, the willingness of companies to work with us, and on our ability to hear, understand, and act on companies’ needs. There is no reason for us to lag in producing graduates who can master these emerging IT fields which are so central to Georgia.. The state is providing us with many of the resources we need to do our work; it’s time to perform and produce.”

ICAPP received $840,000 in funding from the General Assembly in the FY 1999 budget to devise a strategic, economic development response to the widening information technology supply/demand gap. The University System is allocating a total of more than $1.6 million in funds to implement the ICAPP Information Technology Strategic Initiative. The effort includes the implementation of work force development strategies to expedite the entry of information technology professionals into the labor pool to meet short-term supply deficiencies throughout Georgia. In addition, resource centers will be developed to provide business outreach services to meet the information technology brainpower and work force needs of business and industry.

In Fall 1996, information technology programs were offered at 33 of 34 University System institutions. According to University System data, approximately 50 percent of IT professionals are four-year college graduates; 40 percent of them will receive additional formal education after hiring. An ITAA report cites that “many employees may function very productively in certain IT positions without a bachelor’s degrees.” The University System’s response heeds its own surveys and the recent report’s findings by producing graduates at every academic level.

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