Learning networking skills proves vital to grads’ job search

Justin Decker and Dana Yanch are Mesa Community College graduates who have found that networking—on both the technical and personal sides—has resulted in lucrative career opportunities within east Valley companies.

Both grads attended MCC’s Network Academy, an initiative that offers hands-on training classes in computer networking, system administration, security and communications—collectively rated by the experts as some of the most in-demand technical-career fields.

Many local and national companies, including Insight Enterprises in Tempe, Avnet, Go-Daddy, General Dynamics and others, advertise for employees with these skills.

MCC administrators and instructors connect with these companies and design their classes to reflect what the workforce needs.

Bob Samson, one of the academy’s computer instructors, says there is a strong demand for employees with the skills taught as part of the ongoing academy curriculum.

“We are familiar with the workplace environment since we all had many years of practical experience before coming to teach at MCC,” Samson said. “The classes have labs involving hands-on activities with real equipment in simulated real-world scenarios.”

Instructors at the academy maintain ties to the field by bringing in guest lecturers, providing networking and job opportunities for students.

“Potential employers, some of whom took our classes, routinely contact us and ask us to forward job openings to the classes,” Samson said.

Former student Yanch, who earned an associate’s degree in Networking Administration in 2009, now works for Insight as a network architect. He said the program and instructors did a good job preparing him for employment.

“From the first day of classes it was obvious that the instructors teaching the classes had many years of field experience, which allowed the students to glean some very important hints, tips and habits before graduating,” Yanch said. “I felt completely prepared to hit the ground running when I was recruited into my first job after college.”

Yanch passed the rigorous Cisco CCIE certification on the first try (the average is three).  The CCIE certification is one of the most sought-after certifications in the ICT industry, worldwide, and attracts substantial salaries.

“Since graduating in 2009, I have continually recommended the program to every person I have come across who has shown interest in the networking and systems administration field,” Yanch said. “I often go back to my old classes and give short presentations on how effective my training at MCC was.”

Many students who attend MCC’s Network Academy obtain internships as well. MCC student Justin Decker recently obtained his Cisco Certified Network Associate Certification, or CCNA, as a result of training from the academy.

Decker was a winner in the 2012 Avnet Tech Games, held at the University for Advancing Technology in Tempe, and is currently working at an internship at Avnet.  His manager has told him there is a good chance he will be hired permanently.

“The internship at Avnet was mostly a result of winning the tech games,” Decker said. “Internships at Avnet are difficult to get because they are highly competitive and they provide a laundry list of learning benefits to the interns as well as various employment perks.”

Decker said he was also told by a hiring manager at Insight that MCC’s Network Academy is the best in the state.

“Not only that, but the low cost of community college tuition and the fact that books are entirely optional keeps the costs really low compared to other avenues of learning about networking,” Decker said.

MCC’s networking program is just one of more than 32 career and technical offerings with more than 150 associate degree and certificate of completion opportunities.

Phebe Blitz, dean of instruction for career and technical programs at MCC, said the current economy has many people seeking retraining for better job prospects as well as high school grads looking to obtain specific skills that will make them employable.

“People are more conscious about receiving training for specific skills,” Blitz said. “They are much more job-oriented.”

—Sally Mesarosh is a media relations representative in MCC’s Office of Institutional Advancement

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