The IT Companies Are Coming
● By Aimee Cormier
By Michelle Matthews Calloway • Submitted Photos
In recent months, three information technology companies announced they are building facilities in Lafayette with the promise of high income jobs for qualified personnel. California-based Enquero Inc. announced the center’s opening in Lafayette would create 350 direct jobs with salaries averaging $64,300 a year. The St. Louis-based Perficient Inc. also plans a software development center in Lafayette. Perficient’s project is expected to create 245 new direct jobs averaging $60,000 per year plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates Perficient alone will result in 248 new indirect jobs for a total of nearly 500 new jobs in the Acadiana region.
In late January, Gov. Bobby Jindal, CGI executive Dr. James Peake, Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, LEDA President and CEO Greg Gothreaux and other officials gathered in Lafayette. They broke ground on the new IT Services Delivery Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park being built by Montreal-based CGI. This center is expected to employ 400 high-tech workers with annual salaries averaging $55,000. According to Gothreaux, the CGI groundbreaking represented a significant step in adding to Lafayette’s creative workforce and economic diversification. “The 400 employees that CGI will employ at this facility are the foundation of the fourth leg of Lafayette’s business base,” says Gothreaux. “Along with health care, energy and entertainment, Lafayette’s burgeoning technology sector will provide the kind of quality jobs that will keep our graduates in the region and bring back those who have left to seek opportunities elsewhere.”
Economic analysts in Louisiana project the state could see the creation of 23,000 jobs in the software industry in the next 20 years. Software development and IT students graduating from Louisiana universities can look forward to employment opportunities here in Acadiana. Yet, education analysts predict if the current graduation rate of IT students from state universities holds steady, a gap of 4,600 unfilled positions will exist. South Louisiana Community College plans to help bridge this gap by offering students an opportunity to earn a degree in its Application Software Development program and by providing Continuing Education courses that will lead to industry-based certificates.
SLCC’s Dean of Business, IT and Professional Studies Sam Harb provided information about the college’s program offerings.
Application Software Development Program
Harb sees the IT sector as an integral part of Acadiana’s economy and explains that’s how the program got its start. “As you know, the location of IT leaders CGI and Enquero will be right down the road from SLCC’s Lafayette campus. SLCC, Acadiana’s community college, didn’t wait for these corporations to come to begin the only Application Software Developer program in the state. Our programs are aligned with the economies that drive the communities we serve,” Harb expounds. According to Harb, the two-year Application Software Development degree offered at SLCC prepares students for entry-level jobs at these corporations.
Students attending SLCC interested in IT jobs will have the option to enter a program to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Application Software Development. The ASD program prepares students to perform tasks associated with developing and modifying software applications. “This program will have a strong focus on programming, which includes various languages such as Java, C++, C#, Visual Basic, Python, HTML, PHP and SQL. In addition, students will be taught how to edit, debug, test existing programs and then create their own,” says Harb.
Benefits Of Completing The ASD Program
The ASD program can help graduates prepare for careers in a variety of entry-level positions in various fields involving software applications and programming, such as database programmer, web developer, software support technician, and software tester. “The benefits of having this degree are endless,” Harb says enthusiastically. “Because technology is so important today, graduates will be able to fit right into this quickly expanding industry. They will also easily be able to easily earn another degree that will further their knowledge of computer programming and software development.”
SLCC’s program will prepare graduates for viable careers in the IT industry right here in Acadiana. The program is designed to offer students a course of study that leads to a successful career while simultaneously fulfilling workforce demands. “It’s a win for the students, the IT industry and the economy,” says Harb.
In addition to the associate degree program, SLCC will begin offering two evening courses through its Continuing Education department. The courses will prepare students for industry-based certification in Java. Through the first course, Java Programming Fundamentals, one can become an Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 7 Programmer. Through the second course, Advanced Java Programming, one can become an Oracle Certified Professional, Java SE 7 Programmer.
Harb says the Associate of Applied Science in Application Software Development program fosters cooperation in the training of a new work force for Louisiana. “Partnerships have been developed between SLCC, UL, other state agencies and private industry. We are in talks with UL to create a “2+2” program in which students seeking to continue their education after receiving an associate degree from SLCC can later earn their bachelor degree in Informatics from UL. We don’t have that agreement yet, but we’re working on it,” he explains.
Starting this fall, SLCC will extend the Application Software Development classes to 11th and 12th-grade students at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette. According to Harb, coupled with their regular classes, students in the academy will be given the opportunity to dual enroll at SLCC for classes in the ASD program. Harb states SLCC is also in talks with the Academy of Information Technology at Carencro High School to develop a pathway from the Academy to SLCC’s ASD program. Partnerships are also being formed with other stakeholders. “Our partnerships also include LEDA and area business people who are currently sitting on the information technology department’s advisory council,” says Harb.
Parents And Students Encouraged To Learn More
Parents and students are encouraged to visit an admissions officer or an advisor to find out about the program, job outlooks, the enrollment process, financial aid and more. “They can find the curriculum on the SLCC website at solacc.edu,” says Harb.