When Dundalk Community College's new computer labs open this fall, there will be more computer time for students and an upgraded curriculum offering some of the latest programming languages.
The improvements in Dundalk's computer capabilities will not only benefit the community college students: as part of a state-wide effort to upgrade the skilled work force in the technical arena, the college is also planning to reach out to high school students as well as the business and industry communities. The state has awarded the college a $100,000 challenge grant to fund these initiatives.
"The purpose of these challenge grants is to target areas where there is the greatest need for increased training for workers," said Martha Smith, president of Dundalk Community College. "The governor and the secretary of education are very much in tune with the needs of the work force in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. They made these challenge grants a priority.
"The funding allows us to provide a whole new program in computer technology. It allows us to serve many, many more students. And with state of the art equipment, we can get the work force up to speed and prepare for the future in terms of training."
The challenge grant will fund the purchase of a mini-computer and 16 computer work stations to "expand what we already have," said Dick McKelvie, associate professor and director of the computer information systems program at the college.
One large computer lab will be replaced with a handful of smaller labs at various locations on campus, with several reserved for classes and the rest dedicated for use as open labs.
"One of my major goals is to have every student on campus have the availability of a computer," Mr. McKelvie said. Students can use the computer lab every day, and phone access is available for those who have computers at home. And to make it easier for individuals who can't attend classes during the week, a weekend college is in the planning stages.
Also being developed are computer courses for area vocational-technical high school students that will encourage them to continue their education after graduation, said Kathleen Liberatore, chairperson of Dundalk's business management division.
Options include college classes taught at high schools, college credits for high school studies, and a "college after hours" where high school students can take college courses after school.
Dundalk will also offer customized computer classes to businesses that need to upgrade the skills of their work force.
"There is a critical need for computer technicians in this area," Dr. Liberatore said. "And we have such a critical need for expanding computer lab facilities. Keeping abreast of technology in this area is very expensive. For the state to fund a state-of-the-art computer lab was a really wonderful opportunity for us."