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Cascadia College

Most students would appreciate finding a faster track for getting educated and getting out into the employment world. At Cascadia Community College, they get their chance.

Although some people may love to linger in academia for years, most students would appreciate finding a faster track for getting educated and getting out into the employment world. At Bothell-based Cascadia Community College, they get their chance. Whether they’re looking for a degree or just a chance to brush up on skills, students can enroll in the school’s TechExpress certificate program and get up to speed quickly. Sharon Buck, director of outreach and curriculum design, talks about the IT sector and getting some game.

How did the idea for these certificates come about, and how long have they been offered?

Long before Cascadia opened, we have been actively surveying the pulse of the IT sector. About a year ago, we started planning for additions of new programs, and have selected these areas for first development in response to industry need. We’re offering these programs for the first time in fall of 2003, with additional areas phased to roll out during the 2004 year and beyond.

What do the the TechExpress certificates offer that aren’t covered in your other programs?

For us, these are expansions into new areas from our already strong program of professional and technical offerings. The program offers classes in digital media, project management, game design, IT security, and data warehousing. We are excited to be offering new opportunities for students in areas of industry that are looking for these skills.

What has the student reaction been about TechExpress?

Since we have not offered the courses yet, we have yet to hear about how they like the certificates. But, students enrolling for the courses are very excited to see offerings in this area. We expected to draw our enrollment from people new to Cascadia, but were delighted to see the interest shown by current students, who have registered in numbers higher than we expected.

How did you develop the curriculum for the certificates?

We held focus groups with industry, sought the opinions of professionals actually doing the work, made site visits at businesses and at other educational institutions, researched programs offered elsewhere, asked for input from our industry advisory group, and had faculty with industry experience create the curriculum. Curriculum is also reviewed and accepted by a college curriculum committee. We think we have some great ideas that will be reflected in the student’s learning.

Given the rise in the gaming industry, has there been more interest in the gaming program?

Absolutely. Games are an intriguing and fun product. It is the right time, and this sector is hot. People who want to create games love to play them and often look at this career as a dream job. It also draws people who are creative and artsy and technical, a combination not present in many jobs that are on one side or the other of that often-polarized split. I think it offers a great opportunity for someone who has a playful mind and really wants to go somewhere with it.

What do you like best about what the certificates?

I think the flexibility is a great feature. In a short time, they allow someone to experiment and see if this field is for them, or to build upon an existing set of skills to add new value to them. As we build future programs at the college, we will be watching these certificates for their potential as building blocks in longer, more robust offerings.

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