Constantly advancing technology means that all jobs today require some form of technology mastery. Employees cannot be successful without proper knowledge of how to utilize advanced applications in a professional setting. Many technology educators feel pressure to better prepare students for success.
As part of our IT Specialist Academy program, we sat down with veteran educators, Abner Soto-Henry, Tracy Driscoll, and Marc Hess, to discuss how to strengthen IT programs to meet the demands of the workforce. Here are three simple action items that you can use today to strengthen your IT education efforts.
Build Relationships with Excitement
True connection is the first step to long term learning. Use different opportunities to connect with your students. Participate in school events, such as job fairs or sporting events, to help students gain valuable exposure to you and your department. By making yourself available to students, you’ll have additional opportunities to spark interest and establish valuable relationships with students who may not have considered taking IT classes.
Remember, sparking interest is only the first step. That will get students in the door, but your efforts can’t end there. Bring your passion for the subject you teach. Studies have shown that teacher excitement is highly correlated with students’ perception of subject value. Excitement is infectious and your dedication to your course content will help students see the joy of learning a subject that may be complex or unfamiliar.
Connect with Local Businesses
Students aren’t the only ones who need to be connected to your classroom. Bringing industry into the mix is crucial for creating employment opportunities for your graduates. Reach outside your campus to establish relationships with local businesses. Find out what IT skills they’re looking for, what positions they have available, and reshape your curriculum accordingly.
Meeting industry demand in your classroom gives students a simple pathway and next step after they complete your course. You can show them just how the skills you’re teaching will apply in the real world.
Develop Short-Term Shadowing or Internship Opportunities
Connecting with your local industry can help you shape curriculum and show students the validity of your teaching. This connection can also provide opportunities for your students to get a peek into the world of IT before they graduate.
In a traditional school setting, students often spend most of their time in the classroom. If the goal of teaching is to help students learn life skills for future employment, shouldn’t they be spending more time with those employers? Of course, they should!
Next time you meet with an industry professional, ask them about short-term shadowing or internship opportunities for your students. Could they spare a day to show your students around the office? What about a day, week, or two-week internship to help students get their feet wet? This type of exchange is mutually beneficial. Professionals appreciate the opportunity to pay it forward, and they’re always looking for up and coming talent. Your students come out ahead because they get real-world experience and a chance to expand their network.
The value of these networks cannot be overestimated. According to CNBC, as much as 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. By helping your students get their foot in the door, you’re exponentially increasing their likelihood of a successful career.
Looking for more advice from fellow IT educators and professionals? Check out IT Specialist Academy for helpful resources and information from education and industry experts.