New academy set to teach recruits IT skills

By Christopher Gillett

Youngstown State University launched a new tech academy to teach students information technology skills such as cybersecurity and coding. Students will learn skills in IT that will prepare them for future employment after graduation, including at YSU’s IT department.

YSU students and incoming high school seniors can apply before and at the beginning of each semester. Junior and senior YSU students can apply, but they will receive an abridged course. Any major can apply, but recruits are required to pursue careers in IT. Afterward, they are interviewed and selected by the IT department.

Accepted interviewees will work as student employees at IT services for their first year and in field services for their second year. Third year students will be assigned a mentor from the IT department. 

Among those applying is senior IT major Marquise Goodlet. Already working for the IT department as a Student Service Desk Technician, he explained why he applied for the academy and where he wants to go with an IT career.

“I saw the tech academy as an invaluable opportunity. In IT, sometimes getting your foot in the door or sometimes getting hands-on experience can be hard to come by, so the tech academy was a great opportunity,” Goodlet said. 

He elaborated on where he wanted to take his career within the discipline, wanting to focus on a non-technical role within cybersecurity. 

James Yukech, associate vice president for technology and chief information officer of YSU, has been working at the university for six years. He was the brain behind the tech academy’s creation. He explained how the academy was formed.

“[The tech academy] is not new in the sense that [the IT department has] had student workers for decades. We’ve always been managing student workers, [and] I think by formalizing it into the tech academy one of the challenges we face now is we only have so many spots to fill,” Yukech said. 

He explained how challenging it is to pick the right students. 

“We have seven spots to fill and we might get 13 to 15 applicants. Doing those interviews and making sure we get the right seven candidates every year is going to be different from the way we’ve done things in the past,” he said. “We hope that by bringing students into the tech academy that the best and brightest stay here at YSU.”

The students who are accepted will work under Sharyn Zembower, the associate director of IT services who has been at YSU for three years. She explained how academy entrants will develop two types of networking skills.

“They’ll be networking with folks in IT. They’ll also be looking, if they’re looking [at online networks], at specific network infrastructure, which keeps our things running like the WiFi and connections and phones,” she said.

Depending on what they choose to study in the academy, students will learn numerous other IT skills. They might keep apps like Penguin Portal functioning, learn cybersecurity through watching for phishing scams, or program and code software.

Interested students can apply on the YSU IT tech academy website. There is still time to sign up for the fall semester, as the academy is still holding interviews. Though there is no set deadline for applying this semester, Zembower said in regards to applying for the tech academy, “the sooner the better”.