When Salesforce announced its Pathfinder Training Program in November 2017, they stated that U.S. companies were projected to hire 300,000 administrators and developers who were trained on Salesforce’s products and services. If you’re a college, then how do you train and prepare capable and engaged talent to fill workforce needs like that?

Ivy Tech Community College has the answer to that question, and they’ve been implementing it for some time now and achieving remarkable results. Through specially cultivated academic alliances with top tech companies across the country and here in Indiana, Ivy Tech students are receiving the real-world exposure and training they need to be ready to fill those workforce needs. Academies and product training hosted by these partnered companies supplement the college’s nine IT programs in ways that produce tangible results for the more than 6,000 students in the School of IT.

While the college had been pioneering the framework for these partnerships for years, the academic alliances took off under the leadership of Ivy Tech’s VP of Information Technology, Matt Etchison. Before entering academia, Matt worked in the tech sector locally at Genesys (Interactive Intelligence at the time) and experienced many of the tech-related challenges posed to students. He gets where the pain points are in tech education, and he brought that knowledge to Ivy Tech in 2016. “I came in to modernize the curriculum and to help the college figure out what top talent really looks like,” he said. “Talent can be produced organically right here in college.”

Matt EtchisonVice President of Information Technology

To produce the level of talent needed in tech, however, Matt and the School of IT needed to look beyond the traditional student path. Ivy Tech’s focus is a two-year associate’s degree program during which they must equip their IT students with the knowledge and technical skills to either pursue a four-year degree afterward or enter the workforce through entry and mid-level tech-centric jobs. “Traditionally, you go to school to learn theory, not platforms and vendors,” Matt shared. “Our goal, however, is to build the kinds of tech talent you’d need at every factory, school and organization in Indiana.” This has attracted students of all backgrounds, from those graduating high school to middle-aged career changers, who seek to fill tech jobs of various skill sets within different industries.

School of IT students start with core IT classes, a total of 12-15 credit hours of general instruction. From there, they can self-select into their preferred track from nine degree paths, ranging from computer science and network infrastructure to informatics and software development. Each track has access to specialized industry certifications that lend additional credibility to their degrees.

Thinking beyond this, though, Matt and the School of IT pushed along the industry partnership framework Ivy Tech had established and got companies interested and engaged in the opportunity to teach their products and services directly to students. So many big tech companies were interested that the college is fielding calls from other colleges to learn about their model and what’s made it work.

Dr. Sue EllspermannPresident

“Ivy Tech has built the most robust, industry driven program in the country under Matt Etchison and an exceptional team of program chairs and faculty members,” said Ivy Tech President Dr. Sue Ellspermann. “As technology companies continue to grow and spawn in Indianapolis and across the state, and as IT becomes the backbone of almost every major industry, it is critical that Ivy Tech have both the right programs and the scale Indiana needs.”

Among the ranks of partnered companies bringing their expertise to Ivy Tech are tech titans like Oracle, Google, Apple, Amazon Web Services, Cisco and Salesforce. These companies provide training tools, curricula, access to their internal academy courses and certifications to give Ivy Tech students directed education based on industry expertise. In addition to their regular coursework and preparation for industry certifications like CompTIA, students can become certified experts on Oracle and Cisco products or gain skills to earn certifications.

Salesforce—2018’s Tech Company of the Year Mira Award winner—announced their partnership with Ivy Tech in November 2017 through the Pathfinder Training Program. The program teaches expertise on Salesforce products, and they have extended that opportunity to cohorts of Ivy Tech students; the first 50 students are currently beginning their training. “Salesforce has a curriculum that runs five to six months, and all of this coursework and curriculum is already built,” Matt said, which has helped set up strong alignment between the company and the college. Salesforce also understood how to engage in a meaningful way with the college, according to Matt. “Salesforce’s cognizance of us being in higher ed and giving us resources and a high level of engagement is terrific. They see the value in a community college in a way many have not seen before. We’re so humbled and grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”

Courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College.

By the end of the program, Ivy Tech students will be equipped with specialized training for industry-leading tech products and services, which Matt says will create a well-rounded and capable individual who can enter the workforce or a more in-depth collegiate program for concepts like artificial intelligence. “We’ll have students who are able to say, ‘I learned Cisco’s curriculum’ or ‘I’m a Salesforce Apex Developer,’” said Matt. “That’s clearer than, ‘I have an associate’s degree in XYZ.’ Our students come out with degrees, industry certifications and alignment with workforce needs. That’s the package we’re looking to produce.”

Ivy Tech’s School of IT is experiencing the highest application growth rate throughout the college, reflecting the tremendous growth in the need to fill tech jobs in companies across sectors. Ivy Tech is able to deliver impressive results for an affordable level of tuition: most students can finish their associate’s degree for $10,000 and then go work for major companies in Indiana and across the country. “Students are pleasantly surprised when they go through the program, graduate, and work in an arena they never expected,” Matt said. “They end up working for truly world-class companies worth tens of billions of dollars. They’re in the arena, just like any other college graduate would be.”

Ivy Tech is pioneering a tech-related education that demonstrates how a college can stay current with innovative technologies and provide a skills-based education that is ready for the workforce. “We see that IT and tech is the future of the global economy,” says Matt. “Ivy Tech is helping to shape the IT industry at the multinational level.”

You can read more about Ivy Tech Community College on TechPoint Index. Readers interested in joining the program can learn more about Ivy Tech’s degree programs on their site.