“The first IT classes I ever took were the Cisco [computer networking] classes at Fourth Street, and they really sparked a fire in me and made me realize it was something I wanted to do,” Burris said.
Now, even though Burris has a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management from Northern Arizona University and a full-time job in CCC’s IT department, he is going back to studying. Beginning in the fall, the college will be offering, under the umbrella of its CCC2Work mission, a “refreshed” Computer Information Systems degree and certificates to align with new industry standards of the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA, said Jeff Jones, CCC’s Dean of Career and Technical Education.
Because CompTIA is a growing industry standard in computer networking, security and technology, CCC is making sure that new classes and curriculum align with CompTIA certificates of A+, Network+, Linux+ and Security+, Jones added.
“This will allow our graduates to not only complete our programs but achieve relevant industry certifications to ensure that they are competitive in today’s constantly changing technology field,” Jones said.
Additionally, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, technology companies nationwide are increasingly looking toward community colleges to fill their employee ranks with trained and certified employees. Community colleges tend to be more affordable to candidates seeking new skills or improving already existing skills, and community colleges also tend to be more responsive to changing needs in the technology industry.
For people in the business who want to stay current, or for people retooling, Jones said that CCC will offer certificates for Computer Technician, basic and advanced levels. CCC also will have specifically scheduled evening classes and “accelerated opportunities” for working professionals already in the IT field.
For people starting out on a computer career, CCC will offer an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Technology along four tracks: Computer Technician, Desktop Support, Graphics and Web Design, and Network Administrator. The core classes in the degree are all similar in the first year so that students can get a feel for which track they might like to pursue in the second year, Jones said.
“Nearly all businesses and agencies today require some type of technical support, which would include many of these skills. And those jobs are either internal or outsourced. Some of our graduates have been placed in entry-level positions at help desks, computer technicians and web design jobs. Others have started their own companies to provide these services for multiple customers.”
Optional internships in each track allow students to gain practical job experience and interact with customers to make them more prepared for the workforce when they leave CCC, Jones added. And, once students leave CCC, people starting out in the business can expect salaries that range from about $35,000 to $65,000 a year in Flagstaff, depending on qualifications and experience.
Burris got his first job as a student worker in CCC’s IT Department. He also worked part-time at Deckers Outdoor Corporation in Flagstaff as a Systems Administrator. He finished his studies at NAU while holding down his full-time job at CCC.
He says his studies at CCC, without question, prepared him for the workforce. “Because I was being taught by people who were actually in the workforce, they could really filter out what was not necessary and give me real-world situations that were relevant.”
Currently, Burris is looking forward to the refresh to CompTIA certification curriculum at CCC. “Those are some of the most important baseline certs you can get going into the workforce now. Being able to go through a program, get an associate degree and come out with these certs could be life changing for our students, and I truly believe that.”
He says CompTIA is teaching students and employees things that are not reliant on any single vendor (like Cisco) to be useful in the workforce. “You can walk into any shop and they know you have the skills required. That’s a valuable asset.” FBN
By Larry Hendricks
For more information about CCC’s CIS degree and certificates, visit coconino.edu/computer-information-systems-cis
Larry Hendricks is the public relations coordinator for Coconino Community College.
CCC alum Evan Burris uses his IT skills for his alma mater.