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New coding program provides post-graduate training for programming students

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There’s nothing quite as daunting as the thought of having to enter the workforce after graduation, but UFV and the Ministry of Advanced Education’s new coding training program is working to make the transition a little smoother for computer information systems (CIS) and computing science graduates.

Gabriel Murray, a professor in UFV’s CIS department, will be instructing the full-time four-week-long program which starts in May.

“The idea is that it’s a program to help our students who are either about to graduate or are just graduating transition into the industry,” he explained. “It will be teaching them advanced programming skills. It might be stuff that they’ve encountered before but maybe need a refresher; some of it may not have been included in their undergraduate.”

Along with programming and coding skills, the program, which is also open to physics and math graduates, will incorporate skills necessary for entering the workforce.

“We’ll be teaching them things like professional standards, professional ethics, topics like that,” Murray said. “It should be very practical, very much trying to help them hit the ground running when they get a job.”

To help students prep for job searching, Murray is incorporating coding interviews, which are required for most programming job applications.

“It’s a type of job interview where they give you a problem and you have to write code to solve the problem,” he said. “That’s the kind of situation where students haven’t really practiced that. They’ve done lots of programming but they haven’t really done a coding interview.”

While the program is full-time, only three of those days will be spent in a classroom. The other two will be working in the field, placed with local businesses in the Fraser Valley.

This component was incorporated as a way for students to get hands-on experience that just isn’t available in classes.

“It’s always different in a lab compared to when you’re actually doing it — having to write something on a deadline to get this product finished and sent off to a client,” Murray said.

Exactly what the students will be doing in their placements is flexible, and will differ with each employer — but all will involve some form of coding or programming.

So far, the participating employers include Cnawlece Incorporated, Multapplied Networks, and Kerkhoff Technologies.

For Kerkhoff Technologies, the involvement extends past taking on students, but president Wim Kerkhoff was also involved in the development of the program, along with Murray, Susan Francis and Lisa Boldt from continuing education, physics professor Derek Harnett, and CIS student Elizabeth Klassen.

The idea for the program was born out of a $50,000 donation from the Ministry of Advanced Education as part of the BC Tech Strategy.

“There are a lot of high-tech computing jobs in British Columbia and basically there’s more positions than companies can fill,” Murray explained. “It can be hard to find qualified people because so many companies need computer-literate programmers, so there’s a lot of competition for programmers out there.”

With an open-ended requirement for exactly how to use the funding, UFV and the Ministry worked together to develop the program.

The funding allows for the program to be offered for a $100 fee.

“That funding allows us to do this as a pilot program,” Murray said. “There’s only a $100 application fee if they get accepted into the program, and really, that $100 is only to give them a sense of commitment to the program.”

Since the funding was offered as a one-time grant, it’s unsure if the program will be offered again in the future.

“If we want to offer this on an annual basis, then we would need to either find alternate sources of funding to do that or charge on a cost recovery basis in the future,” Murray said. “We’ll see how that goes.”

Regardless of whether the program will be offered in the future or not, the information included in it could end up being incorporated into the CIS degree.

“I think we’re really filling a gap for some things that aren’t covered in the undergrad program,” Murray said. “What I envision as a strong possibility is what we learn from this pilot program will kind of be wrapped into our undergrad program in the future. It will help us identify things that we’re not covering and we’ll add those either to existing courses or possibly create new courses to meet those needs.”

However, the program is open to all graduates in the past five years, not only recent grads, and can offer those already working in the field the opportunity to brush up their skills.

“We’ve also heard from local tech employers that there might be some employees who work for tech companies who’d be interested in doing this just as a way to brush up their skills,” Murray said. “Maybe they’ve been working in the tech industry for a few years but they want to just get a refresher on some concepts because it’s been a few years since their program.”

Currently, the program is still accepting applications.

“We’re trying to get the word out to as many students as possible,” Murray said. “I think the students who do it will be really glad that they did and it will give them an edge. I think it will really help our computing students land a job and succeed at the job.”

The program will be running out of UFV’s Five Corners campus in Chilliwack from May 1 – 26.

Students can find more information on the program, or apply, at ufv.ca/cis until March 31.

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