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Wake Tech Shines National Spotlight on Vital IT Partnerships

Global Tech Executives Discuss Critical Role of Community Colleges

  Wake Tech Shines National Spotlight on Vital IT Partnerships

NEW YORK, NY (October 25, 2018) - Wake Tech’s partnerships with IT firms in the Research Triangle region were in the national spotlight at the 2018 Association of Community College Trustees Leadership Congress. Executives from Lenovo, IBM, and Cisco joined together in New York to talk about ways they work with Wake Tech, and why it’s important. Wake Tech Board chair and retired Lenovo vice president Tom Looney moderated the panel discussion. “I think of it as the tech companies taking ownership of IT training, rather than simply a partnership,” said Looney. Community college presidents and trustees from across the country attended the session.

Technology companies provide input on course development at Wake Tech, contribute scholarship funds along with equipment and updated technology, and offer valuable internships and mentorships for students. Currently, more than 40 Wake Tech students are working as paid interns at Lenovo. “We’re delighted with all of our Wake Tech interns,” said Lenovo Vice President Bev Crair. “Internships give students an opportunity to work with us and connect what they’re learning in the classroom and apply it in the workplace.” At Lenovo, interns are not only learning technical skills but “soft skills” such as critical thinking, communication, and teamwork. Many have been hired for permanent positions. Crair said companies like Lenovo are increasingly relying on internships to prepare the skilled workforce they need. Currently, in the Research Triangle region, there are more than 12,000 open positions in IT.

“IBM has an internship program and is promoting apprenticeships more and more,” said Grace Suh, IBM Vice President of Education. “We started these programs because there was a skills gap, and then realized that we need to be on the ground nurturing the talent.” Another way IBM is preparing Wake Tech students for the workforce is by sharing its expertise in the emerging field of blockchain technology. The company has developed a special course, called “Zero to Blockchain” for computer programming and data science students. 

“The skills gap we see today is not new. It’s across the U.S. and across the globe.” said Cisco Vice President Ed Paradise, also a Wake Tech trustee. He encouraged other community college trustees and presidents to reach out to companies in their local areas. “Partnering with community colleges is key to our success.”

Suh said it’s like “opening the aperture” for “new collar jobs,” a term first coined by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. New collar jobs are positions that require more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a four-year degree. 

“Universities aren’t going to be able to deal with the challenges of the workforce skills gap over the next 30 years,” said Looney. “It’s community colleges that must take the lead!”