FM Programs Match Industry Needs

June 5, 2013 — Rob Salkin

FM prides itself on keeping programs and courses current and relevant to the job market. We recognize and appreciate that local and regional businesses are where many of our students will be finding internships and full-time jobs upon graduation. People in the jobs today that our students may be doing in the future, along with their supervisors, are best suited to tell us what we should be teaching our students in order to be sure they are well prepared for employment. We are also keenly aware that technology changes rapidly. So, we invite local and regional industry professionals to join us to discuss our technology-related courses and programs on a regular basis.

Our Technology Division Advisory Council (TDAC) met in April. It includes a variety of local technology-related industry professionals who review our programs and provide real-world feedback. The TDAC members from local institutions including St. Mary’s Hospital (Amsterdam) and Keymark Corp. (Fonda) reviewed FM’s new Computer Networking program as well as updates to our Computer Science (CS) and Computer Information Systems (CIS) programs. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

FM’s Computer Networking Associates in Applied Science degree program includes Cisco-based hands-on networking labs to prepare students for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam which leads to an industry-recognized certification. This will fill the need for network technicians and support staff with a stronger exposure to software concepts rather than electrical engineering. In addition, the Computer Science and Computer Information Systems programs have been reworked to improve student success at transfer institutions and in the workplace.

Also at the TDAC meeting, a panel discussion was held with three recent Technology Division graduates. Faculty asked the panelists questions about their jobs and how prepared they were for those jobs. The panelists discussed how they found their job and some of the skills necessary to be effective in their jobs. CS/CIS Professor Frank Yunker noted that when CIS graduate Darren Ranaldo was asked whether or not he needed knowledge of Chemistry to do his job, he replied, “I don’t need to use Chemistry, but I work with people and they are just as volatile.”

Mr. Ranaldo’s observation is humorous, but it makes a good point. Practical people skills are still quite necessary in today’s workplace. One might think the use of technology, including email and texting, makes focusing on interpersonal interaction less important, but the opposite is true. People seem to have become more used to talking to each other through a monitor and keyboard, but that’s not all that is done in an office. It should be assumed that an employee in any field might be asked to make a presentation to a room full of people or handle a customer in-person. So, it has become more important for us to include relevant communication skills in our courses, and we have done just that.

 Also in April, FM hosted the New York State Engineering Technology Association (NYSETA) conference in Raiders Cove and around campus. It brought fellow community college faculty members from across New York State to FM to discuss topics in the computer, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering fields. One of the conference presenters discussing cutting-edge virtualization technology reaffirmed the need for Cisco technology in the curriculum. We were pleased to hear yet another person tell us that FM is going in the right direction.

Rob Salkin is a CS/CIS Instructor at FM.

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