Back in 2007, executives at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina (BCBS SC) realized that for the foreseeable future they would have more job openings in Information Technology (IT) than they would have qualified applicants. BCBS SC turned to nearby University of South Carolina to develop a partnership that would address the accelerating shortage of qualified IT candidates – not just for BCBS SC, but for other businesses in the Southeast as well.
In 2008, IBM decided to support this initiative – and as a result of this partnership, the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management was formed. Today the non-profit organization is known as IT-oLogy (based in Columbia, SC with branches in Charleston SC, Greenville SC and Dallas TX) and includes numerous corporate and educational sponsors, including 450 businesses across a range of industries and 180 universities nationwide.
The goal of IT-oLogy is to engage local business, higher education, K-12, the media, as well as state and local government to grow the IT talent pipeline, and to promote economic development and economic advantage for the region. The key to success is a connected supply-chain-like process that includes business engagement and the academic community, working together to develop the message, the curriculum, the internships and job experiences that will create and retain local IT-skilled workers. The mission for 2015 is to use the IT-oLogy framework as a basis for national expansion.
The IT-oLogy model involves the creation of educational programs, starting as early as grade school, that engage students (male and female) to develop a life-long passion and interest in IT. Now pay attention soccer moms – there are weekend programs here that enable your child to learn, compete, collaborate and have fun, all while preparing for a future career!
Many parents think: “my daughter (son) has no interest in becoming a computer geek!” But, as IT-oLogy points out, there are at least 21 professions that rely heavily on computing (including gene science, business analysis, graphics design and more) – and students in these disciplines who have some familiarity with computing may find it easier to land a job after college as compared with students with no technical knowledge. And note, although IT-oLogy likes to encourage students to write code, there are plenty of non-code writing activities offered by IT-oLogy and its partners.
Here is a sample of some of the programs supported by IT-oLogy:
- Cyber Saturday is a local monthly community event presented by IT-oLogy that enables middle and high-school students to explore and experience technology in new ways. These “hands-on” workshops delve into a variety of topics including 3-D printing, robotics, mobile app development, 3-D animation and web development.
- CoursePower, provided by the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Benedict College and Midlands Technical College, is a minor in applied computing and/or digital design, providing non-IT majors with IT skills and knowledge applicable to any job. These skills will be an important differentiator for job applicants today, but will soon become a necessity in our digitally-driven,”innovation through software-based economy.”
In addition to working with educational institutions, IT-oLogy works closely with other organizations in South Carolina and across the country including Connect South Carolina, a partnership that will expand public and private funding to increase broadband access across the state, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) and Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. IT-oLogy plans to use these partnerships, as well as relationships with other IT-focused groups across the US, as a springboard to promote the IT-oLogy brand and framework for economic development.
What can you do to help? If you are reading this, you already have an interest in IT. Find out about local programs in your children’s schools and reach out to organizations in your community that promote IT. Volunteer to run an event. Share your passion. Research the high school curriculum and explore online IT learning programs that could supplement required courses. Find out what local universities have to offer.
Explore career opportunities and internships in your organization and work with local high schools and colleges to match those opportunities to qualified students. And most of all, convey the message to your children that IT is fun and encourage them to get involved. IT is about creative problem solving, teamwork, collaboration and new ideas. Soccer moms, let’s all become “IT moms.”
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