When Delaware Technical Community College's Richard C. Kralevich was tapped to revamp the school's technical operations and academic lineup, he knew the results would better meet the needs of the business community - partly because they would be involved.
In October, Delaware Tech launched Tech@Tech, an initiative that "serves to inspire the design, development and delivery of innovative and exceptional student-centered, technology- based learning opportunities through credit and noncredit offerings, and special events," according to Kralevich, vice president for Information and Instructional Technology.
An ongoing collaboration with Delaware businesses, internal expertise and best practices helped define the Tech@Tech approach, which represents a new way for the school to measure its technology program against the fast-moving needs of Delaware industries.
"Tech@Tech is a total restructuring of all of our IT functions to better prepare our students for the workforce," said Delaware Tech President Mark T. Brainard. "We are committed to providing a cutting-edge curriculum that supports the rapidly changing needs of Delaware's employers."
One of those needs is soft skills, according to Kralevich. Traditionally, hard skills have defined the academic program, but Delaware businesses leaders were asking for something newer, broader, and a little different; namely, graduates who could bring critical thinking and problem-solving to the workplace.
"In the past, what a successful technologist has focused on is the three feet between themselves and the screen," said Kralevich. "But our business partners are saying that can't be anymore. What they really need are those to be able to move away from the screen and interact with other developers."
The school redesigned its Computer Information Systems curriculum, now aimed at turning out "T-shaped" graduates with skills in EQ and IQ, according to Kralevich. These graduates are great critical thinkers, good communicators, team players and problem-solvers with an aptitude for both written and oral communication.
The degree is also more agile, according to Kralevich, accelerated at 61 credits instead of 70. Concentrations like information security, programming, and networking offer a tailored focus.
As the industry changes, those degrees can "stand up" to the newest applicable concentrations, too.
In addition, Delaware Tech will offer stackable credential certificates thanks to a $3.5 million America's Promise Grant.
Regular meetings between the Tech@Tech steering committee and business partners drive the program, including stakeholders like JP Morgan Chase & Co., CSC and Beebe
Healthcare. More than 50 different employers were invited to Tech@Tech's official launch in October.
Kralevich said the results will be evident to students and stakeholders, as the initiative demands attention paid to every applicable concept that deals with technology.
One example? Maybe a member of the board of trustees comes across something at work or in business that could be applicable to the technology program curriculum, or is a fast-growing concept in the business tech community.
Where once the idea may have been filed away with good intentions, it is immediately sent to the Tech@Tech steering committee for discussion.
"One of the issues with higher education is that it can be slow and lumbering," said Kralevich. "We want to be quick to market with our answers."