ICT Employment

 

ICT Pathways

 

Many employers do not understand the many diverse roles of community colleges and the extraordinarily diverse populations of students served by community colleges in ICT education.

MPICT has developed and is currently disseminating a high level ICT pathways map, which can aid in discussions of ICT education and career pathways.

This diagram is useful in discussions with business, industry, educators and counselors to talk about the very diverse roles of community colleges in ICT education and workforce development - and in discussions with teachers, counselors and education administrators about ICT education and career pathways.

 

  1. Some people drop out of high school and pick up ICT knowledge and skills on their own. If they’re good, they can succeed. Employers want an ICT workforce that can add value to their enterprises. Some people can figure out how to do that on their own. Many find they need additional knowledge and skills to advance in their careers, though, or employers screen them out if they do not have a high school or college degree, and it is not always possible to come back to complete high school or college later. Many of these students end up at community college, and some go back to 4-year colleges and universities, following one of the pathways below.
     

  2. Some people finish high school and go straight to work, without going to college. In some cases, high school Career Technical Education (CTE) programs help them acquire knowledge and skills they can use to get entry level jobs, but they frequently find they need additional knowledge and skills to advance. Many of these end up in community colleges, and some go back to 4-year colleges and universities, following one of the pathways below.
     

  3. Some people go straight from high school to community college. Some of those seek CTE knowledge and skills that allow them to enter the workforce, and that works for them. They complete courses and perhaps get industry certifications that help them get a job.

    Frequently, that was their goal. They never even intended to get an AS degree or academic certification, and they never intended to transfer to a 4-year school. They succeeded in community college, based on their goal of learning what they needed to get a job. However, community colleges have no systematic method for capturing successful student employment outcomes, and therefore this situation is typically not considered a success by educational systems, which primarily evaluate community colleges on transfer or academic degree or certificate completion. This should be fixed.

    Often, however, they find they need additional knowledge and skills or academic credentials to advance in their careers. Many of these end up in back community colleges, and some go back to 4-year colleges and universities, following one of the pathways below.
     

  4. Some people go straight from high school to community college, complete a community college ICT academic degree or certification and then get a job. That’s a success for the community college and for the student with that as a goal. To keep up with changing ICT technologies and advance in their jobs, some return to community college for additional course work or certifications, or they find they need additional knowledge and skills or academic credentials to advance in their careers. Many of these end up in back community colleges, and some go back to 4-year colleges and universities, following one of the pathways below.
     

  5. Some people go straight from high school to community college, take ICT and non-ICT related courses, transfer to 4-year colleges and universities and then get a job with an ICT workforce role. That’s a success for the community college and the 4-year school. Some of these students end up returning to graduate school or community college for additional study to advance their careers.

    However, most 4-year schools want and accept for credit mostly just general education or standards-based computer science courses. Many computer science and business programs will not accept community college IT courses. That is a major obstacle for technical students with ICT interests, because it is precisely those hands-on ICT courses that attract their interest and which they want to pursue in their careers. Businesses want the technical skills, but they frequently require a baccalaureate degree as a screening mechanism in the hiring process. This pathway is broken for IT subjects. It works pretty well for Computer Science programs.
     

  6. Some students go straight from high school to a 4-year college or university. They get a baccalaureate degree in an ICT or non-ICT related discipline and find a job that includes an ICT workforce role. Some of these students will end up returning to graduate school or community college for additional study to advance their careers.
     

  7. Some students go straight from high school to a 4-year college or university. They get a baccalaureate degree in a non-ICT academic field and discover that it is difficult to get a job in their field when they are done. They learn that ICT workforce skills are in high demand and take classes at a local community college to learn those skills. With a combination of baccalaureate degree and technical knowledge and skills, perhaps demonstrated with industry certification(s), they find meaningful employment that includes an ICT workforce role.

    In some cases, even graduates from traditional theory-based Computer Science programs end up going through community college hands-on courses before they find a place in the workforce, because many jobs in IT roles in organizations demand those skills.

    Completion of a community college academic credential is not their goal. When they get the ICT knowledge and skills they need and get a job, they meet their goal and succeed. However, they are frequently not counted as successes for community colleges by current academic completion or transfer evaluation metrics.
     

  8. Some students who transfer from community colleges or go directly to 4 year colleges and universities go on to complete graduate degrees in ICT related fields. Many of them go on to work in ICT industry in R&D and other advanced roles.
     

  9. Some students who transfer from community colleges or go directly to 4 year colleges and universities go on to complete graduate degrees in non-ICT related fields. Frequently, when they try to find jobs, however, they find that employers want ICT technical knowledge and skills that these schools do not provide – even for students in Computer Science programs. Many of these people go to community colleges with advanced degrees to get knowledge and skills they don’t have but need for productive employment.

    Completion of a community college academic credential is not their goal. When they get the ICT knowledge and skills they want, they meet their goal and succeed. However, they are not counted as successes for community colleges by current academic completion or transfer evaluation metrics.
     

  10. It is not on the map, but people who go through any of these tracks may end up teaching ICT related subjects in K-12 schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges or universities. There are inconsistencies in the requirements for those teachers. Many have not worked, at least recently, in real world businesses and have difficulty knowing what current ICT workforce demands and realities are. There is a real need to provide ICT related teachers current, real world ICT employment experiences, so they can shape their courses, programs and instruction to meet current workplace demands.

No matter their education or work background, many working or unemployed professionals come to community colleges to keep up with rapidly emerging and evolving ICT technologies. Their employer may not be willing to pay high price “boot camp” training fees charged by private training organizations, and they can’t or won’t pay those fees on their own, but they need those skills to advance. Again, completion of a community college academic credential is not their goal. When they get the ICT knowledge and skills they need and get a job or advance in their careers, they meet their goal and succeed. However, they are often not counted as successes for community colleges by current academic completion evaluation metrics. Anecdotally, as many as half of students in some community college ICT related programs are in this category.

The different student groups served by community college ICT related programs are extraordinarily diverse. That makes delivering appropriate educational experiences to everyone very challenging. However, the role of community colleges in developing the ICT workforce is extremely important strategically, because of the many different student groups they work with in ICT workforce development – and because they are extremely affordable.

To benefit from the ICT workforce output provided by community colleges, business and industry would be well served to better recognize community colleges’ strategic roles in ICT workforce development and find ways of collaborating with them and helping them find resources with which to do a better job developing the ICT workforce. There is currently no more cost-effective or ubiquitous way of pushing valuable ICT workforce knowledge and skills out into communities throughout California than the California community college system.