MCCCD Is Committed to Expanding Our IT Workforce

by Mike Hunter

Responding to what its Workforce Development Office identified as an immense need for information technology training, the Maricopa County Community College District will open its Maricopa Technology Institute next month in the heart of downtown Phoenix at 640 North 1st Avenue, as part of Phoenix College. “The Maricopa Technology Institute will support more than 30 certificate and degree programs in eleven different program areas that will meet workforce needs. This will be a place where new, continuing, or returning students can find and develop their IT skills and be readily employable,” says Maria Reyes, Phoenix College’s Dean of Industry and Public Service.

In Maricopa County, there are at least 21 technology-based occupations that generate 8,750 new positions a year with 87,975 jobs already established. Arizona’s information technology employment opportunities are 15 percent above the national average. The MCCCD Workforce Development Office expects the pay in this profession to range from $26.09 to $53.21 per hour with a median earning of $38.60 per hour. Many professions would benefit from the IT institute. Among the professions with job demand and earnings above the median include computer and information systems managers, network architects, network and computer system administrators, software developers (applications and systems software), information security analysts and computer programmers.

The Maricopa Technology Institute at Phoenix College will serve as a collaborative space for all students in Computer Information Systems (CIS) classes, Microsoft Server Technologies (MST), and Information Technology Security (ITS) classes. The IT Institute will help prepare students for Arizona’s jobs of the future by utilizing cutting-edge tools that will help students familiarize themselves with vital technology before they enter the job market. The site will also serve as a convening location for workshops, industry advisory groups, meetups and networking functions. Classes will be offered during the day, evening, weekend, and in flexible formats, such as hybrid or online classes.

The project received a $2.4 million grant this past May from the National Science Foundation. The funds will be allocated toward work-focused experiential learning in IT areas for STEM students. 

In collaborating with “Excelencia’s Seal of Excelencia,” Phoenix College joins a select few higher education institutions that will focus on accelerating the number of Hispanic students with degrees by 2030. This year, 58 percent of the student body at Phoenix College is Hispanic. The school has been a melting pot of diversity in the Valley for 100 years now. The grant recipients will progressively facilitate the adoption of STEM evidence-based student serving framework at three urban and two rural Hispanic Serving Institutions, originating at Phoenix College. 

Principal Investigator, Maria Reyes expressed her excitement for this opportunity by saying, “We are eager to design this high-impact model that will build capacity to engage and retain Hispanic students throughout their higher education experience, as well as prepare them for STEM related positions in the workforce.”

The multi-track design will focus on aligning priority areas and innovating cross-sector partnerships over a five-year time-frame, while placing an emphasis on capacity building through work-focused, experiential learning. This model aims to prepare underrepresented and under-served students to seamlessly enter the STEM workforce.

On another technology-workforce front, MCCCD just last month announced a collaboration with Intel and the Arizona Commerce Authority to create Arizona’s first Artificial Intelligence certificate and degree program enabling tens of thousands of students to land careers in healthcare, automotive, industrial and aerospace fields. The Maricopa Community Colleges is among the first in the U.S. to train workers for the region’s driving demands in Artificial Intelligence technology, allowing access for more students to master skills valuable across many occupations and industry sectors and ultimately improving the nation’s workforce, economy and community.

The AI program will begin virtually this fall. As physical distancing requirements are lifted and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic lessen, classes will begin in-person at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Estrella Mountain Community College.   

Photo courtesy of Maricopa County Community College District

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