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Three Ways We’re Preparing Our Students for the Real Jobs of Tomorrow

Published: 04/27/2021

Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., provost and vice president of student experience.

Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., provost and vice president of student experience.

Read how Gannon University and its partner, Extreme Networks, are addressing the need for technology skills and training to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow in the article below, as featured on eCampusnews.com.

COVID-19 and the shift to remote work has created a pressing need for digital skills and computing expertise. A recent KPMG study found that the technology skills shortage is at its highest level since 2008. With many businesses investing billions into retraining programs, few are addressing the deeper pipeline problem of preparing students for these in-demand digital jobs. Today’s students need hands-on, practical instruction that they can immediately apply to their careers.

This is a massive challenge that can’t be fully addressed by business or academia alone, especially when it comes to fast-evolving industries like technology. At Gannon University, we’re tackling this challenge head-on and heavily investing to prepare our students for the jobs of the future. Here are three things we’ve learned in the process to serve as tips for other educational institutions.

Partner with the private sector

As part of our efforts, we formed a partnership with networking provider Extreme Networks that will see $12 million invested over the next 10 years to elevate the delivery of Gannon’s undergraduate cybersecurity and cyber engineering programs. We will also bring new professional training opportunities to northwestern Pennsylvania and equip Gannon’s Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge, or I-HACK, with state-of-the-art technology. Extreme was the first company to commit to being housed in the I-HACK’s third-floor “Hatchery,” a collaborative space where industry experts will work directly with Gannon students and faculty. 

Collaboration with the private sector provides additional resources and expertise that complement what’s available at a higher education institution. Perhaps more importantly, they provide students with direct visibility into the skills that the current job market needs, and students can often make connections and network with potential future employers.

Help students earn industry certifications and credentials

As part of our partnership, Extreme has also provided access to an academic curriculum designed to educate aspiring IT professionals on networking, security, and cloud fundamentals, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence. The curriculum is embedded into Gannon’s undergraduate and graduate engineering and computing programs, and offers certification training modules that are providing students with industry certifications as they complete their courses.

The training – valued at thousands of dollars per person – will come at no additional cost to students while undoubtedly increasing their career marketability upon graduation. In fact, Gannon University students will be the first in the country to graduate with industry-specific certifications, giving them a head start in the high-growth technology industry and arming them with real-world skillsets to drive digital transformation.

Textbooks, lectures, and traditional lesson plans are foundational, proven learning tools. But especially now, soon-to-be graduates are entering an uncertain jobs market. The more that schools can go above and beyond to help students achieve additional differentiators, the better.

Expand into the community

It’s not just students who are impacted by the digital divide and technology skills gap. The pandemic has left millions of Americans jobless, and many of the remaining career options are inaccessible to those without advanced training. At Gannon, the Hatchery will also serve as a regional training center, offering on-site training to professionals from local companies and others from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. It will also be connected to the online training and certification program, providing video-based training opportunities that will connect individuals across the globe.

During this time of social change, educational institutions must take the lead in spurring a massive wave of re-skilling and expanding access to critical training to their broader communities.

We believe tight-knit partnerships between the private sector and educational institutions can help bridge the technology skills gap. This is the type of innovative transformation necessary to shape the next generation of leaders and the key to reaching our overarching goal: to offer a holistic education and provide individuals with the relevant skills employers both need and want.