Employers need to invest money for new technology training
Colleges and universities in Miami are racing to keep up with current technology by developing programs to help students prepare for new jobs in technology.
“I’ve heard quite a bit that employers were unable to find local talent and had to look out of state, so we’re trying to find more creative ways to educate our local population,” said Dr. Yong Tao, dean of the college of engineering and computing at Nova Southeastern University.
“Our goal is to make engineering among the mainstream degrees for our community and ensure that future graduates will be able to participate in the growing number of job opportunities in the STEM fields,” said Dr. John Volakis, new dean of Florida International University’s College of Engineering and Computing Department.
“By 2025, 20% of the workforce is estimated to be STEM related, according to the National Science Foundation,” Dr. Volakis said.
“Engineering degrees are no longer just for scientists; they’re mainstream,” Dr. Volakis said.
“Engineering has a reputation for being hard, but it’s not difficult when you have teachers that are excited and helpful, and programs that are helping students meet their full potential. We’d like to ensure that our students receive top services in terms of career placement and preparation, and make them want to pursue jobs in tech industries,” Dr. Volakis said.
“We do a bit of everything,” Dr. Volakis said. FIU has the 19th largest college of engineering in the country, with more than 5,500 undergraduates and 900 graduate students.
“Our goal is to ensure student success in their early years so they can graduate quickly and at a minimum cost. We are extremely sensitive to how expensive an education is, and we want to make sure that the degrees students are paying for prepare them for the future.”
Next spring, FIU is offering the country’s first bachelor’s degree program in the Internet of Things, an interdisciplinary degree that combines computer science and engineering.
“I am hoping to continue FIU’s tradition of seeing departments as gateways to new areas of knowledge and not boundaries or limits that restrict students,” Mr. Volakis said.
“FIU is a reflection of the Miami community; it mirrors Miami demographically and we have a ridiculous entrepreneurial spirit,” said Emily Gresham, co-founder and vice president of research at StartUP FIU.
StartUP FIU was founded to develop entrepreneurship within the FIU and Miami community.
“We work with faculty and university administration to incorporate innovation into the curriculum and try to find people who are already working on cutting-edge technologies,” Ms. Gresham said. “FIU is huge and it’s hard to know what everyone is doing, so we are here to create noise so people can come and build clusters within the community with different domain expertise.”
Nova Southeastern University also has a solution for employers who are looking for new talent: teach them.
“Technology is always changing, and even after students graduate from top schools, employers still need to invest money to train them every few years,” said Dr. Tao. “When companies need a niche program they can’t get from other Miami colleges and universities, we work with them to develop flexible and innovative in-house programs to meet their needs,” Dr. Tao said.
Nova offers workshops, courses, boot camps and full degree programs to employers who need to train their employees in a particular skill set.
“Companies like Florida Power and Light provide us wish lists of skills they want in their employees and then come to us when they are looking to recruit,” Dr. Tao said.
In addition to providing services directly to employers, Nova is trying to indoctrinate its students with practical knowledge to help them find jobs once they graduate.
“We’ve begun to invest in interdisciplinary studies and we now require all of our students to participate in experiential learning programs to expose them to real world scenarios,” he said. “Our campus-wide mandate will start in the fall and will include a freshman year experience seminar where faculty members from all disciplines prepare lectures and develop new interdisciplinary courses. Each program will connect students with internships, community service opportunities and assign each student a career advisor to guide them through all four years.”
The University of Miami is preparing for the boom in cyber security jobs by creating a graduate level cyber security degree program that will also open up courses to undergraduate students.
“We’ve updated courses to include tech defenses and update the lab work to involve current technology to ensure that the problems we’re seeing in the real world are actually addressed in our classrooms,” said Dr. Nigel John, professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Miami.
UM has a physical and virtual lab with hardware and software systems that professors can reconfigure depending on the course.
“The final project in one of my courses last semester was practical and hands on… we set up a network and students had to break in using the tools they learned throughout their time in the course,” Dr. John said.
“We’re also looking to the National Security Agency and seeing what they put out in terms of cyber security education so our students are ahead of the game,” he said.
“We want our program to have more practical applications, not just be isolated to UM professors and researchers, so we are looking to the technology department and asking them what real world problems they deal with daily,” he said. “There are so many places where security comes into play, and students need to know how to work outside of a lab.”