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Computer-graphics classes and tutorials are increasingly becoming an integral part of a computer science education.
They are also becoming a major draw for prospective employers.
Computer-intensive training is seen as a way to improve skills for those who are looking for a career path after graduation, or to boost the appeal of a resume.
But the trend has been slow to take off in recent years, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which estimates that computer-graphic classes are now less than 10 percent of all college course offerings.
The lack of demand has pushed employers to reconsider whether they want to hire people with computer-related expertise, experts say.
“It’s not the way to go for many people, and it’s not a good place to go,” said John L. Lewis, a former senior adviser at the White House and now an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The growing demand for computer-training courses is a boon for some of the industry’s biggest players, such as Adobe Systems Inc. and Google Inc. The companies said that they’re looking to add more classes to their curriculum.
“We want to be in the business of building a better, more vibrant world,” said Brad Smith, a Google spokesman.
Adobe said it has more than 50 computer-specific courses in its portfolio, including online courses that focus on the fundamentals of computer graphics.
The company’s video-based course, “Adobe Creative Cloud,” is in its third year.
It was created with students in mind.
“As the company grows, we see this as a great way to bridge the gap between students and teachers,” said Chris Farkas, director of digital media for Adobe.
The demand for courses in computer graphics is partly driven by the rising popularity of smartphones, which make it easier for students to learn, said Michael A. Smith, president and chief executive officer of the Computer & Networking &: Information Technology Association, a trade group that represents major companies.
Companies are increasingly incorporating computer-technology courses into their workforces, he said.
That’s creating a demand for teachers and instructors who have expertise in other fields, such at engineering or computer science.
“The reality is, we have to have the teachers and the instructors in place to deliver the curriculum, and we’re not doing that yet,” Smith said.
Some employers are also taking a more hands-on approach to hiring computer-trained workers.
Google Inc., for instance, said last year that it would spend $3.5 million to train its employees to become software engineers, software designers and other computer- and software-related professionals.
Companies such as Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Intel Corp. have also invested in computer-science training programs.
But there’s been a big divide between the industry and some employers about whether that is an appropriate approach.
“Some people think you can hire anyone in the world, and you can’t,” said Daniel Ollie, chief technology officer at Cisco Systems.
“And some people think the best way to do it is to have a lot of people who have computer-education experience and have a strong track record of teaching people how to code.”
That’s a view shared by Michael B. Pascarella, a computer-learning consultant who served as an adviser to the Obama administration and is now president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
He said that in order to attract the best talent, employers should pay top dollar for people who possess a background in the technology industry.
Paccarella said he is surprised that computer training courses are still seen as “underutilized” by some employers.
“You can’t just hire someone with a certificate in computer science,” he said, “because the way they do that is through computer-in-education courses.”
Companies have been shifting their focus to a more “computer-centric” approach to job recruitment, Pascatta said.
And he sees a potential for companies to make a big difference by offering courses to attract more computer-savvy employees.
“They’re not really the first group of people to want to learn computer science, so why not give them the opportunity to do that?” he said of employers.
PASCARELLI, JOHN: What I’m saying is, if you want to attract a group of highly skilled workers, you need to hire them as a group.
That means having a diverse group of workers.
And there’s a lot more that we can do together to build a more diverse and better-educated workforce.