Community Colleges and Tech Support

06/17/2015 11:58 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

Whether it is a Mom-and-Pop business or a multi-national company, they both share a common need -- reliable tech support. But we are facing a crisis in this country because there are more jobs available in technology than there are highly skilled people to fill them. If America is to remain competitive, I believe the answer lies with the work of community colleges.

The field of tech support has exploded over the past 10 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in computer system design and tech support will grow 49 percent from 2012 to 2022. As companies look to upgrade their existing systems, there will be further demand for highly skilled IT workers. Salaries start at $60,000 a year with tremendous opportunities for growth.

The best news is that one doesn't need a bachelor degree or, in some cases, even an associate degree to find employment in systems operations.

Community colleges offer many certificate programs that prepare one for a well-paying job in tech support. These certificates are nationally recognized and often can be obtained in less than two years. Many community colleges offer these certificate programs online.

Once a student completes a certificate and finds a job, many enroll again to update their skills or work toward an associate degree. Some proactive employers will pay for their workers to take these courses.

Microsoft and Cisco are among the companies that have established their own certificate programs at community colleges so that students will be trained to work with their operating systems anywhere in the country.

If community colleges do a good job in training students for help desk/technical support, American companies will find it more advantageous to keep these jobs in the United States and not ship them overseas -- or import workers from overseas to fill them.

Another computer-related field with great growth is cyber security. This is of tantamount importance to a company, which today must do everything possible to keep its proprietary and customer data safe. This field only requires a certificate in Cyber Security/Information Assurance to get a job.

A web development certificate provides one with the skills to create and maintain a website. And Database management and administration skills are critical to any business; employers are hiring individuals with certificates in this area.

At Ivy Tech, we offer these certificate programs in the daytime, evenings and on weekends to serve our students because we know from experience that those who take these courses find well-paying jobs. Extensive hands-on training is provided in our computer and network labs. We also seek out apprenticeships at local companies providing our students with invaluable on-the-job training.

Just recently, we announced a public-private collaboration with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills and Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow. There are nearly 39,000 job openings in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee and we will help train these workers. We plan to have the first-ever industry standards for educating and training the industrial technology maintenance workforce.

We need to change the way we think about higher education in this country. Not all students have the luxury of studying art history at a four-year liberal arts colleges. High school guidance counselors and parents should determine if a student would benefit from enrolling in a certificate program that would enable them to get a good job in systems operations in less than two years.

In many cases, a student with a certificate in information technology will probably earn more than the art history major over a lifetime of employment.