Starting this fall, Ontario college students will be able to take courses that combine technology know-how with business savvy.

“”You need someone who understands the business issues in order to recommend the appropriate technology,”” said Robin Hemmingsen, chair of the centre for e-business

and network technologies at Centennial College. Located in Toronto, Centennial is one of a handful of colleges the Ontario government recently okayed for combined business and technology degrees. “”We heard loud and clear from our advisory committee that it’s not good enough anymore just to be a technology implementer,”” Hemmingsen said.

Employers are looking for graduates who can situate networking implementations within the broader structure of business goals, she said. Centennial has received the support of Compaq Canada Corp. and Avaya Canada for its computer and communications networking four-year program. Compaq will provide laptops, while Avaya will provide wireless infrastructure to the school. Both have also pledged co-op placements for students and there are other interested companies willing to do the same, said Hemmingsen. Cooperation from leading industry companies was one of the vital ingredients that sold the Ontario government on the feasibility of the program.

One of the selling points to potential students is that program graduates may find themselves moving faster up the corporate ladder than those with just the technology basics. “”If I were to teach you to install Windows 2000, but you didn’t understand the business implications of doing that, then that’s all you’ll ever be doing,”” she said.

A person with the combination of technology and business skills is very much in demand, said Julie Kaufman, training analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd. “”Quite often businesses can find the technologist skills that they need or they can find the business skills that they need”” but the combination is still a rarity, she said. “”That’s why we are starting to see technology institutions bringing a little bit more of the business savvy over to IT professionals and a little bit of understanding of technology to business professionals.””

Networking is a constantly-changing field, added Kaufman, and new developments and technologies require that graduates continue the learning process throughout their careers.

That mindset is something Centennial is trying to instill in its students early. “”We’re not only trying to teach them to write business cases and then come up with technology solutions, we’re trying to get them to research new technologies, recommend new solutions and think beyond what they see,”” said Hemmingsen.

Seneca, Canadore, Algonquin, Conestoga, Georgian, Mohawk, Cambrian and Humber colleges will also be going ahead with technology/business programs this fall.

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