Apple, colleges work together to train people for tech jobs
Some 3,000 people are expected to work at Apple's planned $1 billion hub in Research Triangle Park within several years, and colleges and universities across the region are already taking steps to turn out people with the necessary skills to fill those jobs.Posted — Updated
Wake Technical Community College will tweak its IT curriculum to meet Apple's needs, President Scott Ralls said Tuesday.
"Naturally, we are going to be working with Apple just like we have done for other tech companies to make sure we are hitting their targets," Ralls said.
Apple’s growing footprint in Austin, Texas, likewise has colleges tailoring courses to meet the demand. The tech giant's 5,000-person campus there is expected to open next year.
“We are working with Apple in such a way to where we are offering what it is they need," said Linda Smarzik, dean of Computer Studies and Advanced Technology at Austin Community College.
The college is offering a new four-year degree in software development to train students in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“The beauty of community colleges is they can move quickly and they can move through the curriculum that is needed at that time by the industry partner," Smarzik said.
Austin Community College also is training high school students enrolled in a dual program to code using SWIFT, the Apple-made coding language.
“By the time they are coming into a four-year degree for machine learning or artificial intelligence, they have enough programming that they have done to where they have an understanding about what they are about ready to get into," Smarzik said.
"You can pretty much make a bet that you’ll see a lot more SWIFT programming" at Wake Tech, Ralls said.
Although the college is focused on creating pathways to larger IT programs at schools like the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Ralls said he still believes graduates of two-year programs could land jobs at Apple.
"You’ll hear this more and more with companies: They say, 'We don’t care about degrees anymore. We care about skills,'” he said.
Officials with North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and Durham Technical Community College similarly said they want to work with Apple, with the goal of placing their graduates in jobs with the company.
As Apple gets ready to land in the Triangle, Smarzik said colleges in North Carolina should focus on developing a workforce not just for Apple but for the tech industry as a whole.
“Have early discussions with Apple. What do you need? What is it that you see?" she said. "In having those early discussions, then align it with other industry partners, with what is happening in the area to make sure it’s not Apple-centric.”
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