guest commentary: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

That axiom is one of the reasons that I should never have considered a career in teaching. As an effective doer, it follows from the axiom that I should not teach. As an effective spender, it further follows that I should shun a career path with proverbial bad pay. Ironic isn’t it, that in my sixteenth year of teaching I should be encouraging others to follow this path.

To address the critical shortage of AS/400 programmers in our community, Jefferson College has developed a strong IT program targeted at the AS/400. Like many other community colleges and technical schools, Jefferson College has found it impossible to hire AS/400 instructors. Your local colleges are probably experiencing similar difficulties.

I encourage everyone reading this article to consider becoming a full-time or part-time instructor at their local community college. This career move offers:

  • Escape from the high-pressure environment of IT.
  • A sense of fulfillment achieved through helping students achieve their life goals.
  • Opportunities to place yourself at the front of the technical wave.
  • Stable employment because the number of community college students tends to increase during recessions. Short hours and long vacations.
  • The opportunity to increase your income though part-time and summer consulting. This choice, however, precludes the short hours and long vacations.

Employers can help solve their local college’s staffing problem. If the college improves it’s performance then the local firms will benefit by having the opportunity to hire better prepared graduates. Employers should also consider measures such as: “Adopting” or partnering with a college IT program. For instance, through the partners-in-education program, IBM provides AS/400 systems, software and training to many schools and COMMON typically waves the registration fee for their programs.

Such partnering could include:

  • Providing input into program and course design.
  • Providing technical assistance.
  • Extending internal training opportunities to the faculty.
  • Providing visiting lecturers to fill a part-time or full-time slot at the college. (This could provide a sabbatical opportunity for members of your IT staff.)

Your IT staff will bring real-world experience to the college environment and will have an opportunity to hand pick future employees from among the students. They can also provide part-time consultant/Internship opportunities for the college’s IT faculty, who can supplement your full-time staff. The IT faculty will also be good in in-house training rolls and can learn your methods and bring them back to the classroom. More importantly, with the supplemental income, the IT faculty can afford to continue teaching.

Now we all know that the pay of IT faculty should equal the pay for their IT peers and the axiom should read: Those that can, do; those that can do best, teach.

Phil Levinson is Professor of Computer Information Systems at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri. While teaching for the last 16 years, he has developed PC and AS/400 systems for industry. His first textbook, Essentials of Subfile Programming and Advanced Topics in RPG, was released by 29th Street Press in April 1998. He is currently working on an RPG IV version of that Textbook scheduled for release fall 1999. PLEVINSO@GATEWAY.JEFFCO.EDU