Oracle’s Strategic Investment In Montgomery College - Higher Education

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Oracle’s Strategic Investment In Montgomery College

by Ronald Roach

Where does one of the world’s largest computer software companies
go when it wants to partner with a college that has a highly diverse
student body in a region that is experiencing severe high-tech labor
shortages?

For executives at Oracle Corporation, a Redwood Shores,
Calif.-based company, suburban Maryland’s Montgomery College seemed a
logical recruit for the company’s $100 million academic partnership
campaign. The newly announced partnership between Oracle, a
world-leading producer of database software, and the three-campus
Montgomery Community College has resulted in a $1 million investment of
software and curriculum material by Oracle.

“Montgomery College and Oracle are taking significant steps toward
providing an ethnically diverse work force that will help the region’s
technology sector grow,” says Dr. Robert Parilla, president of the
college.

The campaign effort, the Oracle Academic Initiative (OAI), has
attracted more than 100 two-year and four-year participating
institutions around the world since it was launched last fall. Oracle
has partnered with a variety of institutions, including Morehouse
College, the City University of New York, and the Baltimore City
Community College. Company officials say they sought the partnership
with Montgomery College in part to enhance their diversity outreach
efforts.

“There’s a lack of women and minorities in the [information
technology] industry. [Montgomery College] has a high diversity level
at its three campuses,” says Wanda Miles, senior manager of the Oracle
Academic Initiative.

Considered one of the most ethnically diverse community colleges in
the nation, Montgomery College has an enrollment of 20,000 students,
more than 50 percent of whom are non-White. Roughly 26 percent are
African American, 15.9 percent are Asian, and 10 percent are Latino.
Students enrolled at the institution also represent more than 150
countries of origin.

The college’s diversity is reflective of demographic changes that
have occurred in Montgomery County, Md. — a suburb of Washington, D.C.
— in recent years. An influx of Asian, Latino, and other ethnic
minority immigrants to the county, coupled with the area’s growing
African American population, have made the college a center of striking
diversity.

Other OAI partners with high diversity in their student populations
include San Francisco State University, the Houston Community College
System, and the Los Angeles Community College District.

Coinciding with the OAI partnership announced last month,
Montgomery College launched a multimillion-dollar Information
Technology Institute. Officials there regard it as an innovative model
for information technology training at a community college. The ITI,
funded by Montgomery County with a $2 million allocation, reconfigures
the school’s existing information technology and computer science
curriculum, offers many new courses, and adds professional information
technology certification programs — including those involving Oracle
and Microsoft Corporation technology.

Dr. Stephen Cain, director of ITI, says the institute allows course
development to be shortened from two- or one- year cycles to periods as
short as six weeks. That flexibility will allow the college to offer
courses in computer science and programming fields that keep pace with
rapid industry changes, he adds.

“In terms of curriculum, information technology is literally a
moving target. Traditionally, higher ed has moved with a great deal of
deliberation when it comes to curriculum change,” Cain says.

“What we’ve done is streamline our curriculum process.”

Cain says the institute was established to respond to the local
business community’s pressing need for skilled information technology
workers. The Washington Post has reported that a shortage of trained
technology workers has reached “near crisis proportions” in the
metropolitan Washington area. The paper also reported that wages lost
due to the lack of high tech workers is costing the area more than one
billion dollars annually.

According to Dyan Brasington, president of the High Technology
Council of Maryland, roughly 20,000 high tech jobs in Maryland are
unfilled. The U.S. Department of Commerce released figures last
February reporting that there were 345,000 high-tech jobs available in
the United States.

Cain says the Oracle investment is helpful to ITI because it
supplies courseware related to the maintenance and use of Oracle
database products. He estimates that 80 percent of local high-tech
companies use Oracle products, thus making the need for professionals
trained in that brand of technology critical. He added that ITI has a
partnership with the Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest
software company, and that the institute offers certification courses
in Microsoft networking technology.

Miles says students trained in Oracle database technology stand a
good chance at getting hired by Oracle clients who are in need of
workers with those skills.

Cain agrees that the U.S. information technology industry has
traditionally lacked adequate representation from minorities and women.
He says it’s going to require commitment by companies, such as Oracle,
to expand outreach efforts in order to increase the numbers of Blacks,
Latinos, Native Americans, and women working in those arenas.

“It’s very important for [information technology] fields because
they have traditionally not been representative of the total
population,” Cain says.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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