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01/31/2002 - Information Technologies Academy Off to a Running Start

The fifty-four Running Start students at the Information Technologies Academy have to hit-the-ground running each morning.  Their classes at the IT Academy in the Holley Mason building are from 7:30 to 9:30 every weekday morning.  The students have the option of two different program tracks -- web development technology and network engineering.  Community Colleges of Spokane (CCS) instructors teach all classes, and the student body is made up of a mix of academy and Running Start students.

After the first quarter of HTML programming, web development students may branch into two separate tracks -- more programming or multimedia and animation.  Network engineering students advance through operating systems to network administration.  All Academy students take a series of courses referred to as “CO - OP”.  It is the CO - OP program that makes the IT Academy different from other Running Start programs.

Community Technology Experience is the full title of the CO - OP program.  This is courseware licensed to the CCS and administered by Class 101 -- a Terabyte Triangle company.  The CO - OP portion provides students with real world, work-based experience.  It is valuable because it gives students the opportunity to see skills in action and the opportunity to use the skills they are learning, according to Phil Autrey, Class 101 president.

CO - OP students are taught both hard and soft skills.  The goal is to prepare each student for an Internship and then link the student with a local internship opportunity.  Students learn from classroom activities, guest lecturers, and job shadowing.   They also learn how to dress, how to write a resume, how to sell themselves, and the importance of “getting to work on time.”  Students should be ready for internships by their third quarter at the academy. 

Students in their second quarter of the CO - OP program are learning about business development in a beginning entrepreneur program.  Their quarter-long exercise is to start a business, then take it through the conceptual stage, narrow the focus, conduct market analysis, do the web development for it, and, finally, figure out just how it is supposed to make money.  Because it is an IT Academy, all student businesses are on-line.  Students divide into teams, choose their own project managers, work in groups, and carry out their business. 

IT Academy students have been involved in a variety of real-world projects.  Some have served as interns helping with web deign and development at the new Museum of Arts and Cultures, at District 81 at the ITSC, and at Planet Ice among others.  Some interns have learned that adults-in-charge may be confused about web design, have difficulty defining the end product, and may not be able to articulate their need.  Students must learn to ask the right questions and make a major effort to determine what is needed.  The students must develop client relationships, arrange meetings, and make the project move along.  Sometimes they must learn that e-mail is not enough -- you also must use the telephone.  As IT student Josef Blom stated, “I think the CO - OP class really helps prepare for jobs and the real world.”

Another community project involved the Excelsior school.  LineSoft donated some used computers, but some of the computers needed work.  IT Academy students rebuilt the computers, mixing and matching the best parts of each, and then passed the rebuilt computers on to Excelsior school.  As part of beginning HTML, the semester project was to develop the web site for the Excelsior School.

The students like their school.  The Academy has its own culture and the kids take pride in their “work place.”  The non-institutional Holley Mason building is an important contributor to the relaxed atmosphere of the Academy.  As student Dylan Moline put it, “It’s more interesting than high school.”  “This is giving me a jump start on the job world.”

Billie Moreland
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