McMaster, Mohawk scour IT industry for program instructors

McMaster University and Mohawk College are preparing to offer a two-year degree-completion program starting this September and the hunt is still on for qualified instructors.

The post-secondary institutions, both located in Hamilton, Ont., are currently putting together a schedule that would lead to a Bachelor of Technology degree from McMaster. Courses will be offered in civil engineering infrastructure, computing and IT, and manufacturing technology. Students will be offered 24 courses (17 built around technology, seven around managerial skills) which they can take on evenings and weekends.

The issue ahead of the institutions right now is finding people to teach the courses. They will be able to look to their own faculties for some course aspects, but outside help is still a must, said Fred Laidman, program chair for computing and IT at Mohawk.

“We’re going all over the place, because there’s no way in the world we’re going to get it from either institution completely,” he said.

Potential teachers include: retirees, post-doctoral students, private sector instructors, and consultants from industry. Laidman said he has spoken to 10 candidates so far. “We’re hoping that some people might come forward who have the right technical background. It really is all over the place.”

For the IT teaching component, “we’re touching on networking, programming, system design, all kinds of areas within the computer field. We’re definitely looking for instructors for sure,” he said. But Laidman said is certain that the September deadline will be met and all the teaching positions will be filled.

Students wishing to enroll in the two-year program must have already completed a college diploma. McMaster and Mohawk are expecting 120 students for the first year, expanding to 400 students in five years.

Beginning in 2007, the institutions will offer a full four-year degree. Upon completion, graduates will receive a Bachelor’s from McMaster and a diploma from Mohawk. Programs will be offered in process automation technology, automotive and vehicle technology and biotechnology.

The first year of courses will be common for all students and in the second year they can choose to specialize more, said Art Heidebrecht, executive director for the program and a former dean of engineering at McMaster University.

The idea is to promote more hands-on education, he said, with applicable real-world skills. “One of the concerns that people had about engineering programs is that they tend to be more theoretical and more concerned about fundamentals than actual applications. These programs are trying to fill a gap in hands-on (learning).”

In order to get both the two-year and four-year programs off the ground, Mohawk and McMaster will need new technology, both hardware and software, said Heidebrecht. They are currently assessing their options and speaking to potential suppliers.

Tuition is $800 per course, which is more expensive than other undergraduate programs, but still cost-competitive with training courses available from private sector institutions, he said.

Part of the reason for the extra expense is that there is no government funding available for the courses yet, added Heidebrecht. “If you want the government funding, you have to go through a fairly long process. We felt we want to get these things going.”

Heidebrecht said that the two-year program is unique in Canada, but there other similar courses available in the U.S. McMaster administrators went down to Indiana and visited Purdue University, for example, to gather some ideas.

Following the two Bachelor’s options, McMaster will look at implementing a Master’s degree in IT, said Heidebrecht.

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