UMES - IBM help grads land jobs
By Deborah Gates
PRINCESS ANNE -- (May 31, 2011) -- Two weeks after turning the tassel that ceremoniously certifies his new undergraduate degree in finance, Nicholas Wiggins is off to launch a professional career at IBM in Bethesda, Md.
He's among an estimated one million students who are earning a college degree this spring. But he stands with fewer than half of them able to land a competitive job in their field of study.
"I am very grateful to the university and the IBM initiative for giving me the opportunity," said Wiggins on a road trip back to his hometown in Colorado. "The trend is definitely toward technology; and technology and finance complement each other very well. I took courses in enterprise computing, a very sought-after field. Being a finance major, that's huge for me. I'm thankful I was advised to pursue the IBM initiative; being a finance major, it puts me in the best opportunity for success."
Unlike many in the Class of 2011 who hold an undergraduate degree in social sciences or liberal arts, Wiggins studied in the School of Business and Technology at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where at least a half a dozen graduates have landed competitive-salaried jobs with the global business systems leader or a partner company.
In a recent survey of college graduates in the last five years, almost half polled said they are working in a job that does not require a college education. More than half -- six of 10 -- say their job is tied to their field of study.
Cliff Zukin, a political science and public policy professor at Rutgers who was co-author of the study, said more than 50 percent of graduates worked while in college but can't get a "great" job now.
"Eighty-three percent of them worked when they were in college," he told the Associated Press. "They're making sacrifices to go through with this and they're coming out without a great job and with debt. That's not a great situation."
Bryant C. Mitchell, a professor in the UMES business school, recently touted several students who either landed jobs this year as graduates or interns with salaries that pay at least $70,000. By comparison, the median starting salary for those who graduated between 2006 and 2008 was $30,000. For the 2009 and 2010 grads, it dipped to $27,000, according to the study by the Knowledge Networks for the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.
Mitchell, a chief faculty contact, credited a partnership under way two years ago that brought IBM engineers together with UMES faculty and administrators in a collaboration that modified existing courses and added new ones to make UMES graduates competitive for IT and computer marketing jobs.
"I was blessed with scholarships for athletics; I was a catcher on the baseball team," Wiggins said. "I am excited to have a full-time job working at a global leader as IBM. I think every student is worried at some point about the next step. I trusted in God that everything would work out, that I'd be at the right place."
UMES President Thelma Thompson took steps to better prepare UMES business students, tapping federal funds to hire a former IBM executive consultant with ties to the computer industry. The idea was to connect with a division of IBM in search of colleges and university with whom it could partner. IBM would then advise on best instructional practices in information technology, business and marketing.
Funding through the U.S. Department of Education led to the appointment of consultant John Thompson, who led a joint initiative two years ago to design an Enterprise Systems program at UMES; then identify and recruit industry partners; recruit student activities and ES job placements with corporate partners; mentor students; and negotiate competitive salaries for ES students.
"UMES already had a solid foundation in its curriculum, which appealed to IBM and convinced the company to become an instructional partner," John Thompson said. The company invested more than $130,000 into the development and deployment of the ES program at UMES, he said. Some $100,000 went for paid salaries for two IBM engineer assignees to develop a test program, and Mitchell won a $30,000 faculty grant for input into the ES program development.
The backbone of the new 21st Century global economy requires that the Top 25 world banks, major retailers, most medical institutions, manufacturers, and industries depend on IT infrastructures centered (on) Enterprise Systems and associated disciplines, John Thompson says.
"The primary focus of the UMES program is to develop a multi-interdisciplinary curriculum delivered across the schools of business, computer science, and engineering to replenish theses specialized enterprise computing skills for which 21st century corporate America now requires," he said. "The majority of these highly technical jobs are currently being held by baby boomers which has created a huge skills shortage and created a very high demand for Enterprise Systems professionals around the world."
Ayodele Alade, professor and dean at the UMES School of Business and Technology, calls the IBM collaboration led to a curriculum tailored for "preparing graduates for the business and information technology sectors."
The IBM partnership, he says, is one of several in which the business school intends to forge a relationship for student advancement.
"The university is always interested in working with partners in the corporate world who can advise us on what our students need academically to compete for the very best jobs they can find," Alade said.
As a bonus, Wiggins' degree is among the firsts awarded to graduates in the newly accredited Department of Business, Management and Accounting in the School of Business and Technology at UMES. The peer credential, granted in the spring of 2011 by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, adds even more muscle to Wiggins' diploma.
"The university and the school of Business and Technology should be very proud," Wiggins said. "It's a very high honor."
Alade said more corporate partnerships with UMES are emerging. "Just as we continue to foster our relationship with IBM in developing Enterprise System instruction, UMES also is committed to developing working relations with the Bill Gates Foundation and Microsoft," he said.
This article is reproduced with permission of The (Salisbury, MD) Daily Times newspaper.