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Students connect with Pennsylvania high-tech businesses|
By Karen Tuohey Wing
| The School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) is working to create a Brain Gain in Pennsylvanias high-tech industry through an innovative work-study program called PA FutureConnect. Now in its second year, this program matches companies with qualified IST students in the field of information sciences and technology, while helping to support the students salariesoffering a break for startup and emerging firms. Students generally work 10 to 15 hours a week during the academic year.|
During 200102, PA FutureConnect provided 25 of our students with the kind of workplace exposure they need to become better professionals, Dr. James B. Thomas, dean of the School of Information Sciences and Technology, said. At the same time, 16 companies benefited from the expanding expertise of highly motivated, future IT [information technology] managers. Overall, its a classic win-win situationgood for IST students and good for business.
According to Art Heim, vice president for economic development with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC), PA FutureConnect provides an outstanding opportunity for industry in our central Pennsylvania community to gain access to the best and brightest information technology talent. This student workforce is ready, available and highly skilled.
Heim added, Companies gain in at least two ways: having access to talent that can be applied directly to a critical task and secondly, a low-risk exposure to a future hire in this competitive talent pool. The value is gained not only within the company, but also with the student who gains real-time experience in the industry. The CBICC is proud to be a part of this pioneering workforce development initiative.
PA FutureConnect began last fall in State College and York, where the schools collaborated with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County and the York County Economic Development Corporation, respectively. The Ben Franklin Technology Partnership, a division of Team Pennsylvania Foundation, provided a $100,000 grant to launch the program. In the spring, two new grants, $52,300 from the Stay Invent the Future program and $50,000 from the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, will allow for expansion of the program into the south central region.
We have undertaken initiatives in the Harrisburg area in cooperation with Penn State Harrisburg and the Harrisburg Area Community College, while strengthening the existing program in York and State College, said Jan Mahar, program coordinator and assistant director, Business Solutions, IST Solutions Institute, Penn State. Our long-term goal is to deploy the program throughout the Commonwealth, because we believe it offers important potential gains for the Pennsylvania economy, Mahar said. Our hope is that students will see firsthand the many benefits of making their careers here.
PA FutureConnect seems to be meeting and exceeding this goal.
Ed Marflak, president and chief executive officer of Schoolwires Inc., participated in the pilot program. He was enthusiastic about the results.
The program accomplishes a lot of things, Marflak said. It keeps us connected to the University and lets us benefit from some of the talented students there. It also gives us a chance to mentor the students and give them an opportunity to see how their work fits into a corporate setting. It is also useful in looking ahead to full-time recruitment. I believe by showing students that they can work in industry thats close and convenient, this program can attract students and build talent in the area, while helping us recruit the right kind of people for our company. Its like a big circle that strengthens both the academic and business communities.
Jessica Trotter, one of the students who worked during the pilot year, said, My current position at L. Robert Kimball and Associates was extremely positive. I worked with Geographic Information Systems software, which I really enjoy, and learned a lot. I appreciated the opportunity. Kimball is a great company to work for, and the people are fantastic.
Purvi Shah, another PA FutureConnect student, said, This program has given me an opportunity to get real-world experience and step up to challenges that might not be faced in the classroom. My work included creating Web pages, testing products and software and debugging scripts. The work assignment is integrated well with my skills.
Now in its second year, PA FutureConnect is a model partnership between Penn State and Pennsylvania businesses where all parties benefit. For more information, visit the Web site at http://online.ist.psu.edu/futureconnect.
© 2002 Outreach Communications, Outreach & Cooperative Extension, The Pennsylvania State University
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