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Creating the Next Generation of Tech Leaders

By Aaron Reed, Ed.D., President, Neumont College of Computer Science.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.

Over two decades ago, after graduating from college with a degree in computer science, I launched my career at a local software company. On day one, I was escorted to my new office. My “office” was actually a closet with some brooms, a small desk, a computer, and a stack of books. Despite my eagerness to jump into some code and change the world, I was told that now it was time for me to learn. I was confused. I had already learned; I had a degree to prove it — I was wrong. The small, individual assignments from textbooks and outdated tech I had learned in college left me woefully unprepared to work in the real world. Luckily I was a fast learner, and I found myself in full-on code monkey mode in a matter of months.

A lot has changed since then. Al Gore brought us the internet. Mark Zuckerberg brought us insight we never knew we needed by helping us see what our neighbors eat for breakfast. But far too little has changed about the way we educate students in computer science. Ask anybody who’s hired a computer science graduate right out of college, and they’ll share similar stories of having to pay people to learn on the job.

We are all aware of the statistics concerning the computer science worker shortage. Computing Research Association predicts that 65 percent of STEM job growth will be in computing through 2022. There are currently more than 4,860 open computing jobs in Utah and more than 500,000 in the United States. The nation’s employers are desperately seeking talented tech workers, but are unable to find qualified candidates.

After a decade in the software industry, I joined Neumont and found my passion; educating tomorrow’s computer science professionals to help rectify this worker shortage. Neumont’s sole focus is to prepare students for careers in technology. Our goal is that when graduates leave Neumont, they are immediately ready to work on large-scale, critical projects for their employers, perhaps, even in an office with a window (or at least without a broom).

Neumont’s curriculum is continually refined through employer feedback. Our faculty have experience working in the technology industry, not traditional academics. We emphasize problem solving, communication and collaboration skills as students work on large-scale, real-world projects.

Our employers tell us that we’re hitting our target. Most of our graduates contribute immediately to their companies through software development, quality assurance, or system administration. Although we’re not perfect, and we continue to evolve, our educational model appears to be working. That’s why we’re working with K-12 teachers and the Utah State Board of Education to identify ways to improve all levels of computer science instruction in the state.

In 2017, approximately 104,000 high school students took Computer Science AP exams nationwide. By itself, that sounds like an impressive number. But when compared to the 1.7 million AP exams taken in English and history, or the 4.9 million exams taken overall, we have a long way to go. It’s time to change the computer science dialogue. Computer science is fun, creative and artistic. From athletics to healthcare, computer science reaches every industry imaginable. Computer science is challenging, rewarding and results in highly lucrative careers. Computer science has so much going for it and one big thing going against it: student interest. Neumont is invested in changing that interest here in the Silicon Slopes and beyond.

I invite you to join us by learning more about Neumont, our academic programs and our graduates at www.neumont.edu.

Creating The Next Generation Of Tech Leaders was originally published on Silicon Slopes.

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