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Spotlights and News: IT
What is the wish of every Information Technology student? One answer would most likely be the opportunity to “play” in their very own data center. That wish has come true at Madison College, where Network Security and System Administration program students are now able to do just that.
Madison College instructors Mike Masino, Jon Forde and Curt Chambers are teaching in a newly designed classroom this fall. The classroom has an attached student data center, funded by Madison College.
The data center contains:
- 28 servers
- 15 Cisco switches
- 2 Palo Alto firewalls
- 4 Cisco firewalls
The new student data center is specifically designed for Information Technology students to work on their classroom labs.
Students in the Department of Labor TAACCCT 3 INTERFACE Project are the first Security program students to benefit from this unique learning environment.
TAACCCT 3 INTERFACE students, Pam Snyder and Mike Eckert, believe that the new student data center provides, “a great learning opportunity,” along with, “real-world experience.”
Students work in the student data center during class and also come in on the weekends to practice.
A relatively new class in the Network Security program called “Security Design” utilizes the data center by giving students the opportunity to work on pseudo web pages. Students can test the strength and weakness of web security, thereby gauging a web page’s strength against network attacks.
The new classroom and data center have also expanded the scope of the Network Security program class “Penetration Testing.” For the System Administration program, students will experience working with physical servers in the “VCP” class.
Working on physical servers in a realistic data center environment will give students a better understanding of how a data center works – and if things don’t work, students will learn valuable troubleshooting skills.
The Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) Ashland campus recently completed a project that involved replacing all of the campus network switches. This project was special because it involved students who are part of the IT Projects Club and are enrolled in the IT Network programs, which are supported through the Department of Labor TAACCCT 3 INTERFACE Project. Eight members of the club came to WITC on Sunday, October 23, 2016, when the campus was closed, and worked under the leadership of Pat McCullough, Network Technician at the Ashland campus.
Network switches are used to connect campus devices to the college network. When you connect a device to the wired or wireless network on campus, it connects to a network switch. It was critical that this project was completed properly, as staff and students needed to connect to the network on Monday morning.
The whole project took over seven hours to complete, and the work was completed in a professional manner. The network is functioning beautifully and the wiring racks are very neat and orderly. The students benefited by gaining real knowledge while improving the network that they rely on to complete their classroom projects. The college also benefited by using fewer staff resources.
Most people are familiar with the standard job fair model. Businesses seeking new employees set up a table and fill it with information about their company. Then, job seekers make their way down the line, have short conversations at each table, hand over a resume and shake hands before moving on to the next booth.
This past June, Northcentral Technical College (NTC) took this concept and flipped the table, metaphorically speaking, by hosting its inaugural IT Reverse Job Fair.
At the event, seven IT students and recent graduates who were looking to secure employment set up interactive demonstration tables in order to display their work and the knowledge they had accumulated while at NTC. From software developers to network specialists, the students showcased their unique skill sets as employers floated from table to table, reviewing the work on display and asking detailed questions.
This highly targeted event paid dividends for both the students and employers, as they were able to spend valuable one-on-one time together to mutually determine if there was a good fit.
“The recent Reverse Job Fair was a much needed innovation to streamline the process of connecting students with employers,” said NTC student Seth Ficke. “I had more success there than at any other employment fair I have ever attended, even ones with many more potential opportunities.”
For Ficke, the IT Reverse Job Fair turned out to be more successful than even he initially realized, as shortly after the event, he accepted a job with one of the employers he had visited with on that day.
The employers in attendance also expressed their appreciation for the innovative approach to a job fair, as it gave them the chance to get to know the students in a relaxed setting, making the conversations more personal and in-depth.
“Not only was it great for those participating as students or recent graduates, it was also a perfect time for employers to pay attention to one potential applicant at a time and really understand all that that person has to offer,” said Liz Soczka, Aspirus Human Resources Representative. “I wish that when I was in college I could have had been given the same opportunity, as I think this type of job fair could be extremely beneficial to those entering the workforce in the next few years.”
After completing four semesters at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) and earning multiple certificates along the way, the first cohort of students in the College’s INTERFACE-funded Network Enterprise Administrator program earned their technical diplomas and graduated in May. Among them was Jesse Klafka, who was honored with an outstanding student award.
Before enrolling at WCTC, Klakfa spent 14 years in the construction industry but was sidelined due to a work injury. He was seeking a profession that would accommodate his injury and support his family – his wife, Emily, and his 7-year-old daughter, Kira – so he chose to explore a career in Information Technology (IT).
“I have always had an interest and a natural talent for computers. I chose the Network Enterprise Administrator program because it was fast paced and allowed me to get the most professional certificates I could in the two-year program,” said Klafka. “I like the network side of IT because it allows me to work with both software and hardware, and I can still build things with my hands, which the construction worker in me loves to do.”
The education he received at WCTC led him to a position as lead technician at Smart Home Technologies, a company that designs and installs custom automation systems for homes and businesses. In his diverse role, Klafka spends his time preparing technical documentation and bidding jobs, running various cables, installing high-end equipment and other related tasks. He works to automate everything from blinds, lights, HVAC, home audio and visual, phone systems, alarm systems and more.
“I love being able to use my networking knowledge while still being hands-on and in the field,” said Klafka. “I like working directly with the customers and being able to see the projects from start to finish. I also have a great boss who is a great mentor; his positive and encouraging attitude makes it easy to go to work every day.”
Pairing construction with IT has been a boon for Klafka. Experience in two distinct fields has given him an advantage in his current job.
“My construction background has equipped me with the knowledge I need to read blueprints, do the installations, and know the building codes and materials,” he said. “My education at WCTC gave me the knowledge behind everything that runs these systems. I understand how to connect and configure all the equipment to a large-scale network.”
Klafka credits WCTC with putting him on a new career path and achieving a new level of professional development. That, along with support from family, is helping him succeed in the IT field.
“The opportunity to go to WCTC and have such a supportive group of teachers and advisers was crucial to my professional growth,” said Klafka. “I grew on a personal and professional level more than I ever thought possible when I first enrolled at WCTC. My family has been so supportive and is incredibly proud of me. That drives me to keep moving forward and continuing to grow.”
Nationally, average salaries in Information Technology (IT) fields pay 1.5 times more than the average private sector job. Within Milwaukee Area Technical College’s (MATC) service area, Computer Support Specialists earn $22.56 an hour, and these careers are expected to show rapid growth during the next decade. At this time, the majority of people employed in IT jobs are men.
One way for women to increase their earnings is to enter a field that is considered non-traditional for women. “Just because you’re a girl, it doesn’t mean you can’t do those things,” Svea Hieb brags. Hieb is a 2015 graduate of the MATC IT Computer Support Specialist Program.
Brandi Burnet and Ocie Buckner are two other women who pursued a non-traditional occupation (NTO). Burnet and Buckner also became participants of the Women in Technology (WIT) Center at MATC. Along with other WIT Center participants they organized the MATC Women in Technology Club. The main goal of the center is to help retain students in NTO programs, specifically women. An Information Systems Security Specialist Associate Degree graduate and president of the Women in Technology Club, Buckner tells us, “There are lots of women at MATC from the inner city who don’t know what college is like. They don’t have friends in similar situations. If they come to the center, they can talk about their challenges and get support.” Both Burnett and Buckner credit the WIT Center with helping them complete their programs.
Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants are intended to help workers who have lost their jobs due to companies moving their workforce out of the country, workers who have lost employment due to company closure, returning Veterans and other adults in need of short-term training to return to work. Women compose 11% of the dislocated workers served by the grant. Currently, 22% of MATC’s TAACCCT funded INTERFACE Project enrollments in the IT Support field are women.
In March of 2016, President Obama and the White House designated Milwaukee as a TechHire Community. TechHire is a multi-sector initiative designed to empower Americans by providing resources and opportunities to learn the skills necessary to work in the computer science and information technology fields. Many IT jobs can be found in industries that are not usually associated with IT including energy, financial services, health care, manufacturing, retail, transportation and local government agencies. According to an announcement from Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee’s TechHire goal is to train 500 individuals for tech jobs and place 600 people into employment in tech occupations by the end of 2020.
MATC has created educational pathways leading to quality, family-sustaining IT jobs that meet the needs of area employers. These pathways also include articulation agreements with area universities for students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree. A robust collaboration with community partnerships has been pivotal in helping to recruit, retain and find employment for students within Milwaukee and the surrounding area.
Training through the INTERFACE Project at MATC began in June 2014 and will run through March 2017. For more information about INTERFACE, IT Pathway Certificates or the IT Computer Support Program, contact Carriel Danz, Project Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414.297.6571. You can also visit the dedicated program website.
For more information about nontraditional occupations at MATC, click here.
Visit the Information Technology MATC Facebook page.
Read more about The White House’s TechHire Initiative.
While Western Technical College’s INTERFACE Liaison/Success Coach, Ray Heidel, figured there were plenty of people in the region that could benefit from the Basic Computer Skills Course, he was not prepared for the deluge of phone calls he received on the day Western’s press release announcing the program was published. On the first day the release was published, Heidel received over 20 inquiries from individuals requesting information about the course and how and where to access it. This trend, while slowing somewhat, has remained strong since the launch of the Basic Computer Skills Course in the region.
Heidel’s enthusiasm about the program began while previewing the course during an INTERFACE conference call in fall of 2015. Heidel said he jumped up from his chair and exclaimed, “This is exactly what we need!” This was promptly followed by Tonya Wagner, Western’s Associate Dean of Business Education and TAACCCT3 Grant Manager, naming Heidel as the Basic Computer Skills Course Champion for Western Technical College. Ray’s enthusiasm was fed by his prior work experience with several partner agencies and organizations in the region. He had seen first-hand the struggles and frustration of individuals in need of basic or improved computer skills which would allow them to seek or advance in employment or to carry on with life in the ever-changing world of technology. He immediately saw the potential of the course as a solution for individuals who truly want to learn or expand their use of computers, and was determined to spread the word about how great the Basic Computer Skills Course truly is.
Beyond the initial news release, Heidel has spread the word about the Basic Computer Skills Course throughout the Western Technical College region through personal contacts with Western’s Regional Learning Centers, area organizations and agencies serving those that may benefit from the course, as well as employers and other universities in the area. The response from these agencies, organizations, employers and universities has been dramatic and extremely supportive of the course. He believes that enthusiasm is contagious and has been effective in getting others to take a look at the Basic Computer Skills Course and see its potential.
Heidel has worked closely with those who created the course including Fox Valley Technical College and subject matter experts at other Wisconsin technical colleges who collaborated to create the program. He believes that one of the many benefits of the Basic Computer Skills Course is that it is presented in a very understandable manner and can be used at the pace of the learner.
Through the INTERFACE grant, Western Technical College has now hired a Basic Computer Skills Course Coach Intern who will be placed at the Workforce Development Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin to present workshops and work individually with those who may need support with the program. Kathleen Olson, Wisconsin Job Service Western District Director, shares Heidel’s enthusiasm about the potential of the program. “Many of our customers have excellent skills and experience in their occupational fields, but find that their computer literacy is not adequate for the job search and online application procedures that they encounter today,” said Olson. “We are thrilled to have the Basic Computer Skills Course Coach Intern at the Workforce Development Center to provide guidance and support to individuals who are developing the computer skills that can increase the effectiveness of their actions to secure suitable employment.”
The Basic Computer Skills Course is free and can be used online or offline. It includes a comprehensive assessment and students taking the course through Wisc-online.com can earn badges for each lesson completed. They can also email a progress report to their instructor, trainer or other interested party. Access the course online. Download the “offline” version.
Church Mutual Insurance Company and Northcentral Technical College (NTC) have formed a partnership to introduce the new Scholars Program to benefit area students in the upcoming 2016-2017 fall semester.
The project will provide financial assistance to 2016 graduating central Wisconsin high school seniors who want to pursue a career in Information Technology (IT) and are enrolling in a computer science-related course of study at NTC.
March 15, 2016 was the deadline for applications for this program administered by Church Mutual’s Human Resources Department.
The scholarship covers tuition, fees, books and supplies. In exchange for the education assistance provided, participants will agree to work in Church Mutual’s IT department on a part-time basis while in school. Upon graduation, they will transition to full-time employment at the property and casualty insurance company based in Merrill.
“This is part of our continued commitment to Wisconsin-based institutions of higher learning,” Church Mutual president and CEO Rich Poirier said. “This offer is the whole package, providing opportunities for free education and guaranteed employment upon graduation. Programs like this help us continue to be THE employer of choice in central Wisconsin.”
“The Scholars Program provides financial support to select IT students at NTC, while ensuring employment for those students both during and after college,” NTC President Dr. Lori Weyers said. “We are proud to collaborate with Church Mutual and provide the skilled IT workforce the company needs.”
“We are excited to announce this launch of the Scholars Program,” Church Mutual Vice President – Chief Information Officer Scott Names said. “We’re looking for talented students interested in an IT career who also love the many opportunities to live and play in the Northwoods. This program provides that, while removing many of the financial worries that tend to come with higher education today.”
For more information go to www.churchmutual.com/scholarsprogram.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) has designed an IT Mobile Netlab with funds received from the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT3 INTERFACE Grant. The purpose of the mobile lab is to enable NWTC to offer classes in the Network and Computer Support Programs using hardware that would be prohibitively expensive to purchase and install in each geographic location. Mobile Labs are a great way to get out into the community to teach and display the technology that NWTC uses in their classroom.
The IT Mobile Lab is made up of a standard Chevrolet truck work van, with a heated pull-behind 15′ trailer. Unlike similar trailers, the Mobile Netlab is not used as a teaching classroom. Rather it is used to transport equipment around the District. There are nine custom designed rolling pods on the trailer.
NWTC staff recently visited the Brown County and Shawano County Job Centers to showcase the equipment and demonstrate the Computer Support and Network Specialist Programs. There was a full house as Simeon Xiong, Randy Maurer and Chris Gabryszek discussed NWTC’s Network Specialist and Computer Support Specialist Programs, and demonstrated the functionality of the self-contained pods. The pods are able to operate individually ornetworked with the other pods. Each pod has two professional workstation PC’s, dual monitors, a network switch and a supply of removable drives. The students are able to use the removable drives to complete tasks from installing operating systems to troubleshooting server software, to setting up a full domain network. In a class situation, each student has at least one unique drive for each class, allowing them to complete the exercises without interfering with other students using the equipment.
The concept is designed to allow hands-on learning for students. For the Computer Support Program, there are two matching desktop computers. The first computer is completely disassembled. This allows those who are interested in handling and assembling a PC to use the other desktop as a guide, providing a basic overview of what they will learn in the first semester class, Hardware Introduction.
This course is a prerequisite for both programs. Two pods are networked together for the Network Specialist Program to allow a demonstration of how to monitor network traffic, host websites and run multiple virtual machines. These are all fundamentals that are taught in the Network Specialist Program and help demonstrate the less physical and more remote administration that the program encompasses.
The team plans to hit the road for several more scheduled events. Some of the future events will include going to NWTC’s Regional Learning Centers and regional career fairs to continue showcasing the new equipment and providing opportunities for others interested in IT careers to interact with the team and the mobile lab. In the near future these mobile labs will be used to teach classes across the Northeast Wisconsin region.
Moraine Park Technical College held an Information Technology (IT) Careers Completion Ceremony on March 8, 2016. Fourteen students received Website Security certificates and three students received Content Management Systems certificates. Two students, Becky Scannell and Adam Skeel, received special congratulations for completing all four of the certificates funded by the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT3
The celebration began with a welcome from Dr. Fred Rice, Dean of Applied Technology and Trades. Later, Jeff Stueber, Business Management Instructor, introduced the fall 2016 cohort student project. Fall student cohort members Evelyn McLeanCowan, Crystal Krueger, Cassandra Fronczek and Benjamin Haack designed and built a new website for the Fond du Lac County Audubon Society. Audubon board members were in attendance as the students presented the new website.
The ceremony wrapped up with congratulatory comments from Dominic Garofalo, Web Designer/Developer Instructor; Bonnie Baerwald, Moraine Park Technical College President; Becky Scannell, IT Careers Alum; and Anne Lemke, Grant Manager.
Since the autumn of 2013, each spring and fall a dedicated group of staff and faculty from all 16 colleges that make up the Wisconsin Technical College System gathers to share updates and insights related to the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT3 grant funded INTERFACE Project. These meetings are a unique opportunity for members of the state-wide consortium to interact face-to-face.
The most recent meeting was held at Madison Area Technical College on April 14 and 15, 2016. Seventy-five individuals gathered in a sunny room for day one of the INTERFACE Spring 2016 Biannual Meeting. Attendees included representatives from the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) State Office, all 16 WTCS colleges and the UW-Stout Applied Research Center Evaluation Team.
The meeting began with a warm welcome from Madison Area Technical College Vice Provost, Dr. Turina Bakken, Madison Area Technical College Vice Provost Dr. Turina Bakken welcomes attendees. and Federal INTERFACE Project Manager, Kathy Spada. Later in the day the student support circle discussed their group’s future as the grant moves toward the final year, and the UW-Stout Applied Research Center Evaluation Team presented information about impact evaluation, college specific evaluation projects and year three reporting for evaluation liaisons. The afternoon also included an overview of grant closeout procedures. The day generated an abundance of ideas and discussion that some attendees carried over as they continued their conversations and camaraderie informally over dinner.
Day two started with an enthusiastic panel discussion focused on building partnerships with workforce development partners. Later, energetic walkers toured the impressive Madison Area Technical College Information Technology facility while others stayed behind to have a one-on-one discussion with Worldwide Instructional Design System (WIDS) Consultant Terri Johnson, discuss college cohort models and internship fairs, or participate in an in-depth Basic Computer Skills Course “train the trainer” session.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Strategic Partnerships Manager, Ann Franz, gave an inspiring and informative presentation about how to start, grow and sustain sector partnerships. A captivating workshop with professional storyteller Sara Slayton on framing the INTERFACE narrative concluded the meeting.
Attendees left the Spring Biannual Meeting with an arsenal of best practices, a renewed sense of team and ideas for new INTERFACE stories to collect and share.
The next INTERFACE Biannual Meeting will be held at Moraine Park Technical College, West Bend Campus, on October 20 and 21, 2016.