At a time when girls are shying away from computer careers due to their "nerdy" reputation, Owens Community College is offering three new information technology programs that focus on the softer, friendlier side of the computer industry.
The new programs - an E-Business degree, a Networking and Information Systems Support degree and a new Programming and Software Development major - include classes in team building, customer service and communications.
"This isn't your stereotypical career where a person just interacts with a machine," explained Dr. Paul Unger, Owens Vice President of Academic Affairs. "These graduates need to interact with people - their work depends on developing systems that are client-friendly."
A recent study by the American Association of University Women revealed that teenage girls are turned off by technical careers, viewing them as full of "geeky guys" in windowless offices working all day at their keyboards.
As a result, these young women are avoiding careers in the computer industry - and failing to learn skills that could give an advantage in careers involving computers, according to AAUW.
The new Owens information technology programs were approved Thursday by the Ohio Board of Regents.
The E-Business degree prepares students to establish a web presence for a company or individual. Students can choose to specialize in e-commerce, technology, database transactions or business-to-business commerce.
"While the high-tech world of e-business is occurring in cyberspace, students need to be able to interact with people in the workplace," Dr. Unger said.
Charlotte Wharton, Chair of Computer Information Systems, said attributes traditionally associated with women - such as good verbal skills, caring and the desire to help others -actually translate well into computer careers.
"Communication is the No. 1 skill to being successful in this field," she said. "It's not sitting in a cubicle by yourself all day."
For instance, working in e-business often requires someone to be a liaison between a marketing group, a technical group and a customer group, she said. Also, careers in troubleshooting or technical support involve talking over problems and being creative.
"Women perhaps can connect in a more personal way and their customers or co-workers appreciate that," she said.
The new Networking and Information Systems Support degree will cover technical skills in Novell and Microsoft NT/Windows 2000. However, it also emphasizes problem solving, team building, customer service, business, technical support and communication skills.
A graduate of this program will work in a position providing network administration, technical support and user training and therefore needs to be able to communicate well, Wharton said.
The new Programming and Software Development major will broaden students' programming skills through four different languages. In addition, students will learn project management, project analysis, accounting and supervision.
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