Technology central

FVTC shows off new IT facilities to help fill talent pipeline

Posted on Mar 31, 2017 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

DANIEL FARIAS LOVES GETTING his hands on new technology.

As a student technician with Fox Valley Technical College’s expanded technology help desk, he’s getting more opportunities to roll up his sleeves and put classroom lecture into practice in real time. It’s a valuable experience he knows will be critical when he graduates from FVTC’s information technology program in a few months.

“It’s been a great opportunity to get exposed to all the latest technologies,” Farias says. “You really get a chance to apply the theory you are learning and see how it actually works in practice.”

The expanded help desk is part of FVTC’s new IT wing on the Appleton campus, a remodeled space consolidating the school’s IT programs from scattered locations across three buildings into one central location. In addition to the renovated space, new equipment and technology has been added.

IT talent is at a premium in the New North region. The latest employment data shows 28 full-time IT positions per month posted as available in the region. Research conducted for the newly formed NEW IT Alliance shows that open IT positions in 2016 cost the region $91 million in payroll. By 2020, it’s anticipated there will be approximately 4,000 unfilled IT jobs in Northeast Wisconsin, costing $203 million in lost earnings.

There are approximately 1,000 students in FVTC IT programs at any given time, says Douglas Waterman, FVTC’s dean of IT and distance education. The new facilities won’t necessarily allow for more students, but instead broaden the skills and technologies experienced and allow for greater student collaboration, a key soft skill the industry is demanding.

“With the help desk, they are working together and working to provide help across the entire campus,” Waterman says. “In the new pod classrooms, that collaboration is embedded, and they have to work as a team.”

The new IT wing opened in January in space previously occupied by public safety training facilities that have since been moved to the Public Safety Training Center near Appleton International Airport. Other enhanced amenities in the renovated IT wing include:

• New faculty maker lab space with 3D printers where customized projects such as automated slot machines and a remote blanket warmer are underway to optimize instruction

• New student maker lab space for students to build projects and inventions

• Expanded network lab and data center

• New pod classrooms with Smart technologies and wall-to-wall Idea Paint

The new data center — something the college did not previously have — opens expanded opportunities for students, Waterman says.

The data center is similar in nature to what large retailers might configure and ship as a unit to a store as the brains of all its data operations. The addition of the data center also creates opportunities for network specialists, database programmers and others to collaborate on their classroom and other projects, Waterman says.

Students using the new facilities see it as a chance to get real-world skills that will allow them to hit the ground running. Graduates from FVTC’s two-year IT program report an average starting salary of $40,000 a year, according to recent graduate survey data.

“We are seeing the same things in school as far as technology and collaboration that we will see in the field,” says Terence Regan, president of the FVTC IT Club. “That’s what you want to work on.”