By Dr. Shannon McMurtrey
With enrollment in information technology programs back on the rise, it’s our duty as educators to make sure our students graduate with skills that are immediately applicable in order for them to enter the job market more marketable and competitive.
However, there are few industries evolving more rapidly than information technology. This creates a challenge for students as well as faculty who have to adapt their curricula to changing workforce demands. For us at Missouri State University, this means preparing our students to provide value to businesses that are increasingly turning to cloud, analytics and mobile to solve complex problems.
Mobile app development in particular is a rising focus area for us, an area made more challenging by the pace of available new devices and operating systems. Considering most software development has moved to “mobile first” and in some cases “mobile only,” it’s important to position our students to succeed in these environments.
Our emphasis on building applicable mobile skills is reinforced by data from the 2014 IBM Business Tech Trends Report showing that previously emerging technologies like cloud, analytics, mobile and social are now being deployed across enterprise environments.
The good news is that the gap in IT skills within these core segments is starting to narrow.
But, the rise in demand for skilled workers still exists – especially for what the report calls pacesetter organizations – ones classified as using those technologies in transformative ways.
Consider these findings that support the need for ‘mobile first’ curricula that prepare our students for a workforce where:
- 57% of pacesetters use mobile analytics significantly
- Pacesetters are 4-7x as likely to use cloud to deliver mobile, social, and big data and analytics
- 63% of pacesetters use mobile to accelerate innovation of product and services
- 59% of pacesetters feel mobile improves customer experience
- 58% of pacesetters use mobile to sharpen insights and decision making
To address these business trends, students studying mobile must learn how to use different development platforms and adopt iterative approaches to building and refining apps to integrate new capabilities and respond to user demand and feedback. They must also understand how to address important requirements such as cyber security, and understand how to integrate mobile with cloud environments and analytics to create more rewarding user experiences.
Creativity plays a large role in the IT profession, so we encourage students to experiment as much as possible. It’s also critical for faculty to continue to sharpen and refine our own development skill sets. In my case, I recently began developing a new app called Truth is Local (www.truthislocal.com), which will be a resource for producers and consumers of farm fresh foods in Southwest Missouri.
We understand that in today’s workforce, it’s not just enough to have technical competence. Students must be creative problem solvers. They have to be able to adapt to change. And, they must be confident in their ability to communicate technological concepts in ways the rest of the business understands. That’s the student we are nurturing at MSU – one ready to enter the workforce with competence, and in high demand.
About the author:
Dr. Shannon McMurtrey is developing the Cyber Security Degree Program at Missouri State University while teaching and leading with key mobile and application development resources for hands on experience for MSU students. Follow Dr. McMurtrey at @shannonm.