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Telecom Educational Programs Created in New York by User-Vendor Alliance.

The rapid development of telecommunications technology has increased the availability of options at a time when the role of corporate telecommunications is more important than ever. Till now, the industry has advanced without a telecomliterate population. But telecommunications today incorporates multiple sciences in its current twofold role, which is to find solutions to business problems and to help develop a competitive corporate strategy.

To anyone involved in telecommunications at the present time, these facts don't come as any surprise. Instead, they point to another fact, which is that with the increasing complexity of technology offerings also comes the need to develop a more-formal approach to education for both the managerial and technical telecom professional.

Efforts to meet this educational challenge have resulted in two distinct projects--a telecommunications-management program At New York University and a three-level endeavor to address the needs of the more-technical telecommunications professional by the New York City Technical College.

New York Viewed as a Model

Since New York City contains the largest community of business telecommunications users in the world and is where the ever-increasing technical sophistication of the business environment is perhaps most apparent, it seemed the ideal starting place for broad industry/user telecommunications educational programs that would be technically comprehensive and business supported. Working out the problems in developing such programs may provide a model for schools elsewhere wishing to offer this kind of education.

In seeking a school willing to develop a program for the management professional, I met with officials of New York University's School of Continuing Education. Their perceptiveness in recognizing the existing need for such a program and their traditional sensitivety to the wants of the business community provided the perfect environment for such an enterprise. Consequently, NYU established certificates in telecommunications analysis (first level) and telecommunications management (second level)--the first of their kind to be offered in New York State.

State Recognized the Profession

For the first time, a major university in the state gave full recognition to the telecommunications-management professional. It was obviously long overdue, and will provide telecom professionals from both the user and industry communities the ability to cross-train in various related disciplines, thereby increasing their job-market value.

The certificate program offers a broad curriculum, covering such topics as telephony, data communications, satellite technology, networking, fiber optics and transmission theory, as well as related business skills appropriate to a business telecommunications environment. Credit might be granted for one's area of expertise, thus eliminating that particular course and speeding up the process of obtaining a broad-brush education. Students entering the program, which is offered during evenings and weekends, are taught by telecom professionals from both the user community and industry, gaining the benefit of real-world experience and interaction with key people in telecommunications.

From the time it was first offered last fall, the program received excellent acceptance, with 472 enrolled. Combined fall '84 and spring '85 enrollments totaled more than 1100 students, 80 percent of whom were telecom professionals. This outstanding response to the program far exceeded the university's original expectations, and courses were repeated this summer to accommodate those unable to be accepted due to lack of space earlier.

The course of study for the Certificate in Telecommunications Analysis includes perspectives in telecommunications, basic telephony, basic data communications, transmission theory, financial planning, digital PBXs, local-area networks and bypass technology, and network design. The Certificate in Telecommunications Management covers satellite systems, international telecommunications, telecommunications policy issues, communications applications, advanced financial planning and selection, advanced network design and telecommunications-management issues.

The development of this program and its resultant success is due largely to the dedicated effort of a Telecommunications Advisory Board (see box at left), Comprised mainly of users, with industry representation from the National Telecommunications Education Council (a vendor consortium), the board worked closely with the NYU school of Continuing Education faculty, offering guidance and expertise. My initial responsibility in the formation of this board and serving as its chair was greatly eased by the enthusiasm of these telecom professionals and their willingness to give the valuable time and talents necessary to develop a program of this kind.

One of the critical educational areas yet to be fully developed relates to the technical professional, both entry-level and advanced careerist. But the need exists: At a national educational conference more than a year ago, an executive with a large PBX manufacturer complained that it cost his company several million dollars per year before seeing any real productivity from newly hired technical people. He also remarked that rather than specialists the company would prefer to have people with broad technical skill in telephony, data communications, transmission theory, and the like, who could better serve both vendor and user in view of the merging of technologies within today's business environment.

The New York City Technical College (NYCTC) has responded to this need by offering industry and users a unique opportunity to work together to define and develop the exact skills, knowledge and competency levels appropriate to the technical professional in telecommunications. It's a challenging task intended to create the state's first baccalaureate degree in telecommunications technology, first associate in applied science degree and first certificate designed specifically for the telecom technician. It's a substantial effort utilizing the resources of both industry and users to produce technical professionals of extremely high caliber.

The proposed offerings, which are in the development process at NYCTC, are both important and necessary. The current concentration of telecommunications in the Northeast (specially in New York City) and future-growth projections make the school's proposal particularly timely. Further, the environment of the New York City Technical College is conducive to the kind of multi-vendor technological cooperation necessary to produce technically strong, multi-discipline programs of study, owing to its engineering orientation and a superb, highly receptive faculty headed by Ronald Holloway, dean of Engineering Technology.

Dean Worked in the Industry

An electrical engineer originally from industry, Holloway has spent the last seven years as author/educator/dean at NYCTC, which is part of the City University of New York. We first met more than a year ago, when he was researching the telecom industry and its various technologies and listening to the problems of manpower shortages, particularly in the technical areas. Through this process, he developed a plan to attempt to solve the personnel problem by offering industry an opportunity to join together in teaching a multi-disciplinary type of program, which could provide savings in the area of technical training for the telecommunications vendors, plus benefits to the user community.

The concepts of the envisioned program was for it to be multi-disciplinary--offering courses in telephony, data communications, satellites, fiber optics, and so forth--hands on and at the component level, with the incorporation of pertinent business skills at the higher or advanced level. In order to implement such a concept, an advisory commission composed of both end users and vendors seemed to be absolutely necessary. By utilizing the full resources of this industry, in particular the inclusion of many large users and their associations (ICA and CMA), the appropriate educational focus and expertise required for the more-technical telecommunications professional will, I believe, more-clearly emerge.

Commission Convened in March

In assisting the college with this project, one of my responsibilities was the formation of such a commission. The NYCTC Telecommunications Advisory Commission, which met for the first time last March, is composed of 40 industry participants and 20 college faculty members. The word "heroic" comes to mind in view of the size of this commission.

However, I strongly believe that a dominent theme will emerge from this group that will serve as the basis for the development and ongoing professionalism of the technical professional. During the commission's formation, both the industry and end-user communities were kept apprised of the size and scope of the work expected of them. Enthusiasm and support are running high among the participating members and their companies, and the spirit of cooperation among competing vendors/carriers in sharing their manpowering and training problems, offering facilities support and the like, is the overwhelming force at work.

What this commission envisions includes a certificate program (already in place), consisting of 900 hours and developed by a small industry consortium in conjunction with the college. Next, an associate's degree, designed to train engineering technicians for the rapidly growing telecommunications industry. This program would provide students with a basic understanding of electronics and communications theory combined with hands-on experience that would prepare graduates to undertake supervisory duties and to have potential for a technical-management career path. Lastly, a bachelor's degree curriculum that would produce people with strong technical backgrounds and pertinent business skills, providing candidates attractive to the large end user as well as to industry.

The Telecommunications Advisory Commission participants have divided themselves into committees that are to re-evaluate the certificate program and to develop the criteria of expertise for the associate and baccalaureate degrees. These groups will meet to work more intensely on their respective areas of interest; and when finished, will meet again as a whole body to review committee-level decisions.

Full Program Targeted at 1986

The target date for the baccalaureate program is fall '86. By that date, all three programs are scheduled to become available for the first time in New York State. At present, I know of no other school attempting to provide this type of multi-disciplinary program on so unique and large a scale as this one. I believe that the problems the commission is able to work out here can consitute a model for other schools interested in developing similar programs.

It is the hope of the college that state-of-the-art training facilities will be donated, along with grants and internship programs. Regular faculty would teach the basics. Beyond that point, professionals from user and vendor companies will be relied upon to teach the advanced technology; in this respect, the generosity of the industry would be counted upon. However, regardless of what future manpower, equipment, materials and internships are donated, the entire industry will have already benefited in a real and practical sense from the time and work of the advisory commission membership (see box).

The ultimate objective of the NYCTC programs is to provide graduates with immediately marketable skills, utilizing a holistic approach that prevents students from specializing too narrowly. By presenting course material in a practical, business-oriented method that includes classroom interaction with telecommunications professionals, the educational experience for the student remains current with what's happening in the real-world industry. By its investing in the future through education, the telecommunications industry is recognizing the need for more-formalized training, the burden of which can be shared by institutions of higher education to the common benefit of all.
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Author:Cooney, C.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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