“St. Petersburg College is honored to have the opportunity to work in such close partnership with Tech Data, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, Valpak, and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in support of IT employment. The ability to strengthen our programs to better meet the needs of world-class employers is fundamental to our vision of success for our students. Getting real-time feedback from students, employers, and partners will allow us to keep our courses current, focused, and highly relevant to the challenges of a global economy,” said Dr. Bill Law, St. Petersburg College President. “The Exploratory Lab Boot Camp is a great example of creative partnerships that move education out of the classroom and into the real world.”
The Exploratory Lab is a new and innovative model for career development that will be expanded through the strength of 250 Tampa Bay Technology Forum members.
“TBTF is proud to be a part of this partnership and believe the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp will offer a valuable connection between our area’s booming technical job growth and the talented student population in our area,” said Brian Murphy, Chair TBTF and President/CEO of ReliaQuest. “Programs like this help to turn the workforce conversation from what is viewed as a challenge in most regional areas to what I believe is an opportunity in the Tampa Bay area.”
The 70-hour program, slated to kick off on Feb. 10 with pre-planning sessions, will give Tampa Bay area companies local talent for their high-demand positions. The program, which is free for students, will give students a leg up on the job market – without increasing their credit hours – by giving them the ability to meet specific job requirements.
“The Exploratory Lab is a great example of business and university leadership partnering together to create a unique learning experience that exposes students to the vast tech opportunities in the Tampa Bay area,” said Chris Cate, Vice Chair TBTF, and CIO of Cox Target Media/Valpak.
Before the camp, which will begin March 23, students will spend the first 30 hours developing and presenting a business plan and networking. The camp itself includes all-day sessions taught by industry professionals on topics that include: integrated business; technology solutions; process and tools to create the user experience; and networking. At the end of the weeklong boot camp students will go straight into interviews for jobs and internships with Tech Data.
“Tech Data is excited about the opportunity to be part of a collaborative effort with leaders in the Tampa Bay area and to create best-in-class curriculum and collateral for the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp,” said Angie Beltz, Vice President of Product Marketing for the Cisco Solutions Group at Tech Data. “We find this initiative very important because we are exposing non-Technology degree (students) to the opportunities in the technology industry, as well as reinforcing the skills necessary to be qualified for jobs at a company like Tech Data.”
The partnership and boot camp arose from a 2012 IT skills gap analysis conducted by Pat Gehant, Director of Workforce Initiative at TBTF. That study showed that Tampa Bay area technology companies are facing a critical shortage of qualified personnel to fill open jobs. The new program will help create a pipeline of skilled employees to meet the needs of local businesses.
“Companies hire for skills and character, not necessarily degrees,” said Gehant, a former IT director with a master’s degree in social science education. “It’s about the art of managing technology in the real world.”
The initial cohort will include 25 students from St. Petersburg College, USFSP and University of Tampa.
“Students can come from any major, because they’re as interested in psychology and education majors as they are IT majors,” said Jim Connolly, Director of Corporate Training at St. Petersburg College. “We’ve put together this curriculum in a five-day experience that will be hands-on … in a flipped classroom.”
To be eligible, participants must be enrolled in an academic program at one of the partnering institutions and seeking a bachelor’s degree, with sufficient credits to be a junior or senior, or be enrolled in a master’s degree program. Students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree who are enrolled in SPC’s “24” technology training program are also eligible. Students need not be enrolled in an IT area of study to apply.
Applications for the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp will be accepted through Jan. 23, 2015.