Mercer County Community College (MCCC) goes full throttle with experiential learning as it recently introduced three programs in partnership with two area high-tech companies and one high-tech trade association.
In the first initiative, MCCC has teamed up with Domain Computer Services, a technology solutions provider, to provide short-term network cabling training and certification that would lead to workforce placement in the information technology and service industry. MCCC is also designing a custom Network Engineering Technology degree program with Domain that will address market demand for certified IT contractors and consultants.
In the second area, the college has partnered with the Security Industry Association (SIA), to provide collaborative course instruction, internship placement and career pathways for students enrolled in the Security Systems Technology (SST) program, which prepares students for employment in marketing, installation, management and technical support for physical security systems technologies in an array of network environments. Currently, MCCC and SIA are working together to redesign key SST courses.
In the third area, MCCC has partnered with Genesis Biotechnology Group (GBG) to offer students access to a Certificate of Proficiency as a Medical Office Assistant (MOA), while maintaining income through a paid internship for the entire one-year program. The partnership also guarantees employment with a GBG subsidiary for graduates who successfully complete all aspects of the program.
According to MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang, the partnership with Domain may lead to a “start-up academy” at MCCC, for which Domain will provide all the equipment and expertise (a half-a-million-dollar pledge), while the college provides the space and support services. “Our students will have real life experiences working for Domain while they pursue a computer science degree at the college.”
What is the need for such partnerships? For Domain, Dr. Wang relates that the company is turning away business because it doesn’t have sufficient staff to meet the demand for network cabling services. “The company CEO told me, ‘If I could hire every person I would wish to hire, I would be doing so much more business for my clients.’ He said he would hire 20 people tomorrow, but he can’t find anyone,” she says.
Dr. Wang explains that Domain and GBG will hire MCCC students upon completion of the programs, but she adds, “We are a community college, serving the entire region, so if other companies want to hire those students … it is an open market. However, our partners are guaranteeing them jobs.”
As for the experiential learning process, Dr. Wang says, “In today’s economy, we need employees that possess both technical and soft skills. The soft skills are learned from real-world experiences. You can’t teach that in a class.”