Liberty prepares students to meet growing demand in technology field
In the quickly developing world of technology, Liberty University is committed to providing a solution to the increasing demands for workers in this field.
By 2020, there will be 1 million more job openings in the technology field than there are college graduates qualified to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average. In a recent article on Wired.com, “recruiting and retaining tech talent” were noted as the biggest challenges facing businesses today.
Responding to the demands of the marketplace, Liberty is giving students real-world experience while they are still in school. Liberty’s School of Engineering & Computational Sciences (SECS) is incorporating the newest technology with hands-on opportunities to work in professional settings.
“The focus in developing the curriculum has always been on practical, hands-on skills,” said Dr. Mark Shaneck, associate professor of computer science and the chair of Liberty’s online Master of Science in Cyber Security. “In addition to the normal coursework, we have done a lot of custom lab development to create labs that are as realistic as possible, so that the view that students have is the same as if they were actually doing this on their job sites.”
Liberty graduates are already making an impact on the field, working for top organizations like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, IMB, and the NSA.
Computational science is a versatile field, and students can expect to use it in almost any career choice, Shaneck explained. With the advancement of smartphone technology and the incorporation of high-tech gadgets into schools and businesses, the demand for programmers and cybersecurity workers should continue.
Liberty is also giving students in other majors experience in technology-related subjects that will benefit them in their careers. An alliance between the SECS and the School of Business provides degree programs that combine both business and computer technology skills. The two schools cross-utilize faculty, working together to offer business degrees in information systems and information technology. Each of Liberty’s graduate and undergraduate business programs is accredited by ACBSP or seeking ACBSP accreditation, and all programs within SECS are either ABET-accredited or seeking ABET accreditation.
Though a degree is important, most employers are also looking for graduates who have experience. Liberty recognizes this and incorporates experiences with learning. Those enrolled in the computational sciences program, for example, write and develop software.
“They’re working for real clients, and they’re delivering software that is used in the real world,” Shaneck said.
Students work in a group to develop software that is often distributed to local companies and mission organizations.
Students can also join the Cyber Defense Club and respond to emergency scenarios developed by industry professionals. The team finished No. 2 in its first trip to the regional finals of the mid-Atlantic collegiate cyber defense competition, which garnered interest from NBC, in 2014.
Because of the unpredictable growth rate of technology, Liberty is prepared to quickly update curriculum and provide new training as technology changes. Since this training takes place in simulated virtual environments, Shaneck said students can be exposed to the latest technology without a lot of time or overhead cost.
Liberty also assists students by helping them connect with local businesses that are in need of skilled workers.
Liberty’s School of Business recognizes the important role that technology plays in the workplace. The university partners with leading companies such as Adobe, Oracle, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft to train students for certifications that will help them stand out when applying for jobs.