Opportunities in College-level IT Education

Many students today are interested in getting a college-level IT education, which makes perfect sense. Today’s college students are increasingly making practical career choices. They’re well aware of the fact that an IT education will give them job skills that they can use immediately, especially if they have the right education. Fortunately for them, an increasing number of schools do have information technology education programs.

IT Degrees

Many students will specifically work towards two-year associate degrees in information technology education programs. A two-year degree will prepare students for a career in computer programming, computer support or network administration. Some colleges will offer four-year degree programs in information technology as well. These will typically give students the opportunity to work in information systems technology and other particularly advanced fields.


A number of people who are already working in the IT industry will pursue college-level IT education in order to enter credit certificate programs that will help them learn new skills. However, there are also students who will earn these vocational certificates while they are earning their associate degrees, so they will be adequately prepared for a high-level career in IT with a lot of available options.

IT Internships

It’s a good idea for students to get direct work experience in the field with IT internships. Some students will get the opportunity to earn course credit by participating in these internships. Other students will get small salaries, while other IT internships are unpaid. There are students who choose to complete IT internships after graduation, which might be allowed with some internships. The more experience, skills and qualifications that students can bring to the table, the better. Having educational qualifications, as well as industry experience through an internship, might be the ideal combination.

After completing your education, check out the COMMON Career Center for career opportunities.

Student Innovation Award – Recognizing “Innovation” in Information Systems and Technology

At the end of October in 2016, COMMON wrapped up its annual Fall Conference. It was there that we saw nearly 300 attendees, including 31 students and eight educators from eight different colleges getting top-notch education on a wide range of topics related to IBM i and Linux.

For the students and their educators, this experience allows them to get hands-on education and networking opportunities that they can’t get in a classroom.  But for the COMMON community, we recognize the great potential in the students as our future professionals. As such, we want our relationship with them to extend beyond the confines of the Conference through to the halls of their schools and continue throughout their education and well on into their careers.

Last year’s Student Innovation Award winner Liam Allen with Michelle August from the COMMON Education Foundation.

One of the ways COMMON seeks to engage students, and ultimately help them succeed is by offering a Student Innovation Award each year. Now in its third year, the Student Innovation Award recognizes an academic-related information system project that is considered “Innovative”. Projects can include anything that improves a process, increases performance, improves productivity or even the development of a new tool or application.  Open to all students and recent graduates enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program focused on Information Systems, Enterprise Computing, Computer Science, Information Technology or a related concentration, the Grand Prize winner receives an expense paid trip to COMMON’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition. COMMON’s Annual Meeting and Exposition is a premier industry event, where students can have access to four full days of IT education from authorities in the industry.

The 2016 Student Innovation Award Winner was Liam Allen. At the time, Liam was a student at Fareham College in Hampshire, England. He built Project Alexis, a stack-based virtual machine that dynamically retrieves data from a physical file as a character without the need to declare any variables for functions. Liam’s project and subsequent exposure to key people and vendors resulted in him landing a full-time job within the industry. He can be seen regularly doing speaking engagements at numerous IBM i conferences.

The Student Innovation Award represents a unique opportunity for students to demonstrate their skillset and be recognized for their accomplishments. Winning can provide them with exposure to the key people that can launch their career in the right direction. If you are a student or a recent graduate with an innovation you’d like to share, consider submitting your project for the Student Innovation Award. More information on the award, its prizes and submission requirements can be found on our Student Innovation Award page.

Early Exposure Makes All the Difference

This week, December 5th – 11th, marks the 8th annual Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). Originally launched in 2009 by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), CSEdWeek is an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. From students in the classroom to their teachers and administrators, all the way to corporate professionals in any industry, CSEdWeek is designed to spark an interest and engage people both from within and outside of the computing community. In 2013, CSEdWeek launched the Hour of Code initiative. A success out of the gate, the Hour of Code introduces people to their first hour of computer science. Aimed specifically at students, the Hour of Code is now a global movement that reaches students in mchildren-593313_1920ore than 180 countries, but truthfully anyone can do it. Hour of Code tutorials include content featuring the latest trends. From using Javascript to code in Minecraft to using Scratch to form a glitch in the Amazing World of Gumball, tutorials, offered in 45 languages, are a perfect introduction to coding for any age, young or old.

Initiatives like the Hour of Code expose today’s youth to computer science at an early age, generating an initial interest that could turn into a lifelong career. And since technology drives everything from medicine to agriculture, it’s vital to attract and engage the next generation of professionals to keep the overall industry flourishing. For places like the COMMON Education Foundation (CEF), where fostering the development and growth of future IT professionals is their mission, general industry recognition programs like CSEdWeek are incredibly beneficial in attracting the demographic they’ll potentially serve in the future. This year, to mark CSEdWeek and the development of future IT professionals, the COMMON Education Foundation would like to ask for your help. We have year-round initiatives that provide financial assistance to both students and educators in the Information Technology field. Financial assistance comes in the form of tuition scholarships for students as well as financial assistance for both students and faculty members to attend COMMON Conferences. As millions this week will be exposed to computer science through the Hour of Code, we’d like to ask for your support in donating to one of the CEF’s many initiatives. You can help in one of two ways, you can donate through the COMMON Education Foundation’s site or you can participate by donating through Amazon Smile.  Your donation, no matter the size, can help provide a solid foundation for the future of computer science.


Developing Invaluable Connections Early On

In this week’s blog, we introduced COMMON’s Secretary, Amy Hoerle. Hoerle got her start with COMMON as a college student. With COMMON’s Fall Conference less than two weeks away, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to talk about college students and the value they can get from being a COMMON member and attending a COMMON Conference.

Each year, the COMMON Education Foundation sponsors an initiative to bring college students to COMMON’s Fall Conference. It’s here that students have access to over 100 educational sessions on the latest IT trends. From Open Source to Modernization, students are exposed to diverse relevant content, all presented by respected authorities in the industry. Their exposure to real-world applications is instrumental in recognizing industry requirements and expectations. Their ability to interact and share with peers and vendors in the IT field gives them a different perspective on the industry, all providing critical knowledge that can be beneficial to shaping their future.  Not to mention, the students have an opportunity to network with esteemed leaders in the field, which can open the door to relationships that can be advantageous in their future job search.

But COMMON’s value doesn’t just lie in its Conferences. Current college students also have access to a Complimentary Scholastic Membership. As a COMMON member, students are part of the largest community of IBM Power System users and solution providers. It’s through this Community, that students can learn best practices, share experiences and engage as participants in the broader IT community. This first-hand practical knowledge about the IT industry, along with the contacts they can create, can be invaluable to them during their education and long after into their career. Plus, other membership benefits include access to all of COMMON’s communication tools that feature technical articles, member-relevant content and other beneficial information for the broader COMMON Community as well as access to leading-edge online education.

When Hoerle attended her first conference nearly 15 years ago, she learned more hands-on practical applications in that one week than she could have ever imagined. Years later, she remains an avid member of the COMMON Community, eagerly promoting the career enhancements she’s received as a result of COMMON. If you’re looking to expand your education beyond the confines of your college or university, consider COMMON. Click here for more information on COMMON’s Scholastic Membership.


Investing in the Future of IBM i

Founded in 1998, the COMMON Education Foundation (CEF) was developed to foster the development and growth of IT professionals that will help manage and support the computing systems of the future. The CEF provides training to those preparing to enter the information technology field and to educators who provide the learning experience. And for COMMON and its members, engaging the next generation of IT professionals and showing them how Power Systems can run the businesses of tomorrow will ensure the sustainability and long-term growth of this flourishing community.

Since the CEF’s inception, one of its main education initiatives has been to bring instructors and students to COMMON conferences each year. Typically, the Annual Meeting, held in Spring, conflicts with students’ schedules, garnering lower attendance numbers. The Fall Conference, however, with students just starting school and readily eager to learn, is an ideal venue for learning, networking and exposure to all that Power Systems has to offer. There, both educators and students, can attend any number of over 100 educational sessions on a wide range of topics related to IBM i and Linux, including full tracks on Systems Management, RPG, Application Modernization and Open Source. Not only do they have access to the latest relevant content, it is presented by respected authorities in the industry, providing practical applications along with numerous networking opportunities with esteemed leaders in the field.

But bringing those students and educators to the Fall Conference comes at a cost. So each year, the COMMON Education Foundation sponsors a Student Initiative to bring students and educators to the Conference on scholarship. The CEF covers the cost of the registration, hotel (2 students per room) and a set travel stipend. With interest from approximately six schools already and more expected in the near future, the CEF is working determinedly towards getting the donations to sponsor at least 25 students and 5 instructors to attend. The estimated cost per student is $700. Generally, donations can be made by anyone, but are usually provided by speakers, Expo vendors, COMMON Board of Directors and members.

Student feedback post-conference has been overwhelmingly positive. With the gamut of comments reflecting the following statements, “The experience of going to the conference was invaluable” and “It was a tremendous experience for both technical skills and in industry communication”, this is great opportunity for students and instructors alike to enhance their knowledge and broaden their network. To learn more about the COMMON Education Foundation or to make a donation to sponsor a student, go to www.commoneducationfoundation.org.

Engaging the Next Generation

This year, COMMON celebrates its 56th year. Beginning in Chicago as a local users group dedicated to learning and teaching the specifics of IBM, now, COMMON is the world’s largest professional association of IBM technology users. Even today, after all these years, we still have some remaining members from the initial start-up.  Over time, the fundamental elements of COMMON have remained the same, while the IT landscape has evolved vastly. With that change, the players are changing too. Keeping up with today’s technology means attracting a new generation of users that can offer new ideas and perspectives, all while being eager to work with the one platform that launched COMMON in the first place, IBM.

COMMON has long been focused on enhancing the careers of its members. But one of its goals over the last decade or so has been to attract and develop the next generation of IBM i users. To do so, COMMON developed initiatives like YIP, Young IT Professionals, which works to reach young members and people new to the IBM i platform, providing them education, engagement and networking opportunities. COMMON’s partnership with the COMMON Education Foundation, brings students and professors to COMMON conferences for instruction and exposure to some of the best talent in the industry. Plus, other initiatives like COMMON’s certification programs provide the skillset validation crucial to remaining competitive in the marketplace. For COMMON, attracting new talent to the organization isn’t just an afterthought, it’s an understanding that it’s vital to ongoing success. COMMON will continue to evolve with the times by providing the education and initiatives aimed at engaging new talent, all while staying rooted in its original founding principle, enhancing the careers of its members.