Joe Birmingham, Central Lakes College president, announced last week that Microsoft has selected the college to be the Great Lakes Regional Microsoft IT Academy, one of 15 regional centers in the United States.
CLC and the computer software leader will join forces to provide information technology training to instructors at colleges and school districts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Upper Michigan.
The instruction that will be given on the Brainerd campus will focus on the latest technology.
"It is offered as part of the innovative 2003 Microsoft IT Academy Program," said Birmingham, "which is designed to empower academic institutions to deliver training that meets the demands of today's workforce.
Access to and training on the latest technologies are integral components of the Microsoft IT Academy Program, which has just completed its first successful year and will expand worldwide in 2003.
"The 15 U.S. regional centers and two in Canada provide direct support and guidance to participating IT Academy faculty in North America," said Ron Houle, coordinator of the program at CLC. There are plans to add more regional centers over the course of the next year.
Central Lakes College led Minnesota and many other states in developing the first Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Windows 2000 programs for students and is very proud of its academic partnerships with Microsoft that bring innovative training and education opportunities to students and staff.
"Central Lakes College was selected to train faculty for Microsoft IT Academy because of its reputation as an innovative leader in providing information technology and workforce development education," said Mischelle Schimelpfenig, Microsoft IT Academy Program manager. "Its commitment, high level of faculty and staff expertise, and wealth of campus resources is critical for training instructors in the Microsoft IT Academy Program."
CLC has two faculty members with high credentials (Microsoft Certified Trainers and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers), as well as a program administrator who is assigned to facilitate the training.
CLC will continue to offer training and course work to students in these highly sought, emerging technology skills. The college is developing curriculum for the Microsoft.Net server platform and plans to offer courses and training soon after its release.
Houle recognized even before Microsoft Windows 2000 was released that it would become the pervasive platform for business.
"Industry is going to grab hold of this and will need people to support it," he said.
That was his rationale for aligning Central Lakes College's IT workforce development program with the MCSE certification. "It was the product that drove where we wanted to go," he said.
But the right product was only part of the formula. Central Lakes College's vision
goes beyond building a world-class IT education program.
Equally important is fulfilling its role as a "community" college by reaching out to attract displaced workers, people wanting to make a career change and women to a traditionally male-dominated career.
Houle reasons that by specifically targeting these segments of the population, this training is enriching people's lives, supporting the needs of the business community, and reaching an untapped market of potential students.
"CLC has offered a general network administration degree in the past, and we still do," Houle said.
In 2000, the college added an additional track that enables a student to attain that degree by completing all the course work in preparation for the MCSE certification exams. While the program is in high demand (it is filled and has a waiting list), Houle acknowledged that the MCSE track is challenging.
This year CLC added the new Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator track to its Network Administration Degree offerings.
To help students with expenses, CLC partners with Microsoft's Solutions Developer Network Academic Alliance, which gives students free and early access to current, emerging, and beta technology to use during training.
"I think it's imperative for students to have access to software we're trying to train them on," Houle said. "If we expect students to buy the software themselves, the expense stops them from signing up."
In the United States, the demand for skilled IT workers continues to rise even as the pace of the economy slows. Eight of the 10 fastest growing occupations are computer-related, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The computer and data processing industry is projected to lead the economy, with employment expected to increase 86 percent by 2010, according to the 2003 BLS Career Guide to Industries.
"Academic institutions are increasingly working to help fill these jobs through their IT career training programs," said Microsoft's Schimelpfenig. "The overarching mission of the Microsoft IT Academy Program is to help schools deliver high-quality training to their students seeking certifications or degrees, or who are otherwise continuing their education."
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