GOING BACK: Kristy Moreau, developer at Precision Design Studios in Providence, majored in psychology at URI before beginning work in the IT field and returning to school to study software engineering at New England Institute of Technology.
Information technology professionals concerned about the shortage of skilled computer science employees in the Rhode Island workforce are taking action to fill the void.
A group of industry professionals have formed a working group to conduct a survey of the business community in August in preparation for a computer science curriculum summit this fall.
The goal is to determine the specific IT needs of businesses in the state and fill the glaring gap in skilled employees by strengthening the educational pipeline – more specifically to get colleges to offer more training for IT developers and encourage more students to fill vacant seats in computer science programs.
“We’re talking to schools around the state, and what we’re finding is many of them have issues related to lower enrollment of computer science majors at a time when the demand is growing,” said Joe Devine, a partner in Bridge Technical Talent, a North Kingstown-based IT staffing firm that has offices in Franklin, Mass., and Waterford, Conn.
The shortage of students interested in majoring in computer science and the needs of the business community have spurred Devine to take action. He is spearheading the survey of the IT needs of businesses and will compare those to college and high school offerings.
“Our colleges offer a very robust range of computer science classes, but we need to start in high school and strengthen the pipeline,” said Devine. “There are classes [in high schools] like how to use Word or Excel or Illustrator, but there aren’t as many classes in how to create the technology.”
Many colleges do have a variety of computer science offerings, but those graduates often leave the state because of the high demand for skilled IT professionals, he said.
“If we can get Rhode Island students into computer science programs in colleges in the state, we can get them to stay in Rhode Island,” said Devine.
Rhode Island native Kristy Moreau, who lives in Burrillville, did manage to develop a successful career in technology in her home state, but she took a somewhat indirect route.
A Web support developer at Precision Design Studios in Providence, Moreau got a degree in psychology from the University of Rhode Island in 2003. She considered getting her master’s degree in counseling,
“I was looking for a job, and I stumbled upon a position in IT as a project manager,” said Moreau. “It was at a company called Critical Mix – it was in Greenville at the time. … They taught me programming basics. I dove in head first and started learning software development.”
During more than four years with the company, she expanded her skills into programming, testing, delivering the projects to clients and supporting the project after it was released.