Chippewa Valley Technical College instructor George Andrews, left, works with student Wesley Lenz in the college’s new Mac lab at the Eau Claire campus.
Chippewa Valley Technical College prides itself on keeping its students up-to-date with new and emerging technologies. But to do so, sometimes faculty and administrators must listen to those students.
That willingness to listen and adapt has led to the introduction this fall of a third major in CVTC’s Information Technology program. The IT-mobile developer major will focus on preparing students to serve the growing need for individuals and businesses to communicate via handheld mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers.
"The popularity of mobile devices has just exploded, and Apple is No. 1 in that area," says IT Instructor Jon Cooley. "We haven’t had anything in our program to deal with that, and our students were telling us that."
There will be significant overlap in the required courses in the new mobile developer major and CVTC’s existing software developer major, but several new courses are being introduced specifically to address the world of mobile communication devices.
Cooley will teach the first course to be offered in the mobile developer major. Called Objective C Programming-Cocoa, it will teach students the underlying language for programming Apple’s iPhones and iMac computers.
Development of the mobile developer major was undertaken with input from the IT Department’s Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives of various businesses and industries within CVTC’s 11-county region.
"Most of the companies on our Advisory Committee are using, or are at least planning to introduce, mobile (communication) applications," Cooley says. "So the base for mobile applications is already here and it will expand."
As a result, there projects to be a growing number of jobs available to graduates with the mobile developer major at a variety of local companies, including Menards, JAMF Software, IDEXX Laboratories and Menards in Eau Claire; TTM Technologies in Chippewa Falls; and Sajan in River Falls.
But graduates with the mobile developer major won’t face geographic limitations when it comes to seeking employment, Cooley predicts.
"Mobile development has exploded nationally and internationally," he says. "So learning the skills we’ll teach in this program is basically a passport to getting a job anywhere."
George Andrews, who also will teach courses in the new major, agrees with Cooley, saying the need for people with mobile developer skills “has pretty much been skyrocketing in the past few years.” That trend will continue, he says, because companies that have an online presence will need to incorporate a mobile aspect.
"The direction technology is heading means that anything you can do on a desktop you will be able to do on your phone with the proper mobile app," Andrews says.
Shawn Creviston, who chairs CVTC’s IT Department, says the mobile developer major will limit instruction to the Apple and Google Android platforms of mobile technology.
"There are others, like Blackberry and Microsoft, in the smartphone universe. But they don’t have nearly the market share that Apple and Android have," Creviston says. "For most of the consumers and the businesses around our area, those are the two they focus on."
The mobile developer major will prepare students for jobs with all kinds of companies, not just those strictly related to computers, Creviston says.
In the CVTC region, graduates will be able to find jobs with many manufacturing plants and retail outlets, he says. And they will find themselves doing things like creating applications for online purchasing, mobile websites and tracking inventory.
"It really comes down to whom you get employed with," he says. "We have so many different employers in this area and they all have their own needs."
The Twin Cities will be fertile ground for graduates with a mobile developer major, a key reason it will by the first IT major offered at CVTC’s River Falls campus as well as in Eau Claire, Creviston says.
With its initial allocation of a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, CVTC has installed new labs in Eau Claire and River Falls filled with iMac desktop computers. Most mobile developer courses will be held in the Mac labs.
The grant also will cover the cost of hiring new IT faculty member Eric Wackwitz, who will teach all of the mobile developer courses in River Falls.
Wackwitz, who graduated from CVTC with an IT degree in 1997, returns to the college from United Health Group in Eau Claire, where for the past 15 years he developed mobile applications for business use.
Wackwitz’s description of how he feels about his new job are summed up in a statement that seems to encapsulate the general attitude of all involved in introducing the mobile developer major.
"It’s exciting," he says, "and terrifying at the same time."
To find out more information about CVTC, please visit www.cvtc.edu/ITMD