It seems an appropriate time to talk about meaningful education / industry partnerships. Not long ago we had our second face to face day for our L3 Computer Science and Programming course at Datacom South Island in Christchurch. This is now the third year we have had worked with Datacom and it has been an interesting pilot in what is possible. Yes, they fund the course (and this year they will kindly provide scholarships to the four top performing students in the course), but that is not really the bit that interests me. It is the educational partnership that provides all the potential. The face to face day is one element and there is little doubt that rubbing shoulders with those who actually work in the industry has a real impact on the students. It provides a meaningful and authentic context for their learning and is an ideal way to kick off the year.
Continuing his educational partnership through the year has been more challenging. Our aim is to provide onoing mentoring for the students from the developers they meet face to face. The initial challenge lies with the developers who already have busy jobs to do. Taking time out to help secondary Computer Science students is not what they signed up for. The intent can be there, but when competing priorities meet, we know which will win out…
The second challenge lies in creating the mechanisms for the mentoring to happen. Do we wait for students to ask for help? If so, how do we make that happen? There are various possibilities, but the initial problem may come with the student asking for that help. I tend to think we need a more proactive approach where the mentoring happens as a matter of course and on a reasonably regular basis. Through an active online community to which they all belong and through group hangouts. But it also needs to have an impact. Why do it otherwise?
These are great challenges to have, and we are eternally grateful for Peter, Ian and the team wanting to do this. It is fantastic to see industry ‘giving back’. Of course they want to see many more students following the IT pathway and there is little doubt our numbers are growing through the whole pathway. And that is an important next step for us to consider. How can we develop the whole pathway, including at junior levels? What is possible?