Omar Villanueva is fresh off the job, undertaking a massive re-imaging project that had him assisting with the installation of software on thousands of computers while being coached by IT professionals in the field.
Most importantly, Villanueva said he learned how valuable teamwork is in the information technology field. Being able to help each other out as a team and correct each other is key to fixing crucial steps, he said.
“Sometimes, being an IT person means that you have to be dedicated from the heart, (and) if you have the heart to do it, as well as the motivation, I think you’re going to be really successful,” Villanueva said. “I’m here to do a job, and it’s important that I keep my word. It’s important that I stay true to being a technician, to my education, to what I’ve learned, my skills, and all the things my instructors have taught me.”
Students at South Texas College like Villanueva who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the Computer & Information Technologies Program (CITP) now have the opportunity to improve their chances for employment in the IT industry by graduating with both a bachelor’s degree and a professional certificate from Google.
A $10,000 grant by Jobs for the Future has given students in the CITP program the opportunity to complete a Google IT Support Professional Certificate while enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program.
“I’m still looking at being a software engineer, and while security was never my first choice, I am realizing as a professional, it’s something I’m going to have to have,” said CITP student Alejandro Farias. “Getting hands-on experience is an eye-opener because you realize that one little thing can mess up everything.”
IT support professionals play an essential role in the lives of people across the world. From installing software and configuring network infrastructure to supporting cloud computing solutions and protecting computer systems from hackers, these professionals are an integral component in every industry.
STC is one of 100 community colleges across the country and four in the state of Texas currently offering the certificate program.
“This is our top priority. Everything we do revolves around students getting the experience they need for their future careers,” CITP instructor Nick Hinojosa said. “We want to make sure they are prepared to go work. We want them to do a good job because it affects us, too. If they go work somewhere, and they don’t have the skills they need, then we have failed them.
“Everything we do in our program is very hands-on in order to give them the best experience. That way, when they go into the real world, even though it might be a shock at first, they can always fall back on their training,” he added.
An initiative of Grow with Google, the certificate program is offered in partnership with Coursera, a leading online learning platform for higher education. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate course focuses on mastering fundamental skills in the IT workforce, including troubleshooting, customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration, and security.
The coursework includes a dynamic combination of interactive learning strategies and assessments, including video lectures, practice exercises, and supplemental reading, to support and enhance the learner’s information technology skills.
The certificate program was only available to students in the fall 2020 semester as part of the CITP 3306 Internet/Intranet Server Integration curriculum. After successfully finishing the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, students are eligible to receive a scholarship between $200 to $300.
“We know our students are very happy with the knowledge they receive at South Texas College,” said Saeed Molki, associate professor of computer science and department chair of STC’s CITP. “Now they are applying this knowledge in the real world. We don’t teach theory. Rather, everything has a real-world application — and this is why our students can find jobs fast.”
Villanueva said he was able to gain valuable experience working through a contracted vendor who was selected for a project with South Texas Health System. He said the experience was about being dedicated to the job as well as adhering to his expertise as a technician. It was about harnessing the skills he acquired as a student in CITP and transferring those to the medical community in their time of need, he said.
“I learned to not be afraid to jump in, and just get in there, and just start working on the computer,” Villanueva said. “We all helped each other out as a team and we corrected each other … the heroes in this project were the people who showed their skills and teamwork.”
Industry leaders have acknowledged STC’s commitment to preparing students for work in the field.
“This should serve as confirmation that the Rio Grande Valley is developing a highly skilled workforce comparable to those found in major cities in Texas and across the United States,” said Juan Suarez, system director of information services at STHS. “We’re forever thankful to South Texas College and their instructors for their commitment to the community, and look forward to working with their students and graduates in the future.”