Computer science department working with IBM to train potential employees

The new location will bring 800 jobs to Columbia, including many entry-level positions.

MU's computer science department is working with IBM to train students to work at the company's new location in Columbia.

IBM aims to bring 800 jobs to the Columbia area by the end of 2012 at the service center at 2810 Lemone Industrial Blvd., which opened May 20. The company estimates about 30 percent of these jobs will be entry-level positions that can be filled by recent college graduates.

Funding for employee education is one component of the state's $31 million incentive package that helped bring IBM to Columbia.

Dale Musser, director of the information technology degree program in the computer science department, said the department has met with IBM and might make long-term curriculum changes based on the company's needs.

"Part of our purpose is to be able to train folks to be able to work at IBM," Musser said. "They have a specific kind of people with a skill set they need."

In addition to preparing graduates to work at IBM, MU will collaborate with local colleges such as Moberly Area Community College to give students there a path to a four-year degree.

"My understanding is that the community colleges which offer two-year degree programs, will provide on-site training or specific training for employees," Musser said.

In a speech regarding the opening of the new facility, Tim Shaughnessy, IBM senior vice president of global services, pledged to work with local universities to educate students in the area of information technology.

"IBM will look for opportunities to work together collaboratively with those universities to enhance their curricula to better prepare students for opportunities in the IT industry, including the types of roles found at IBM," he said.

At a June 2010 UM System Board of Curators meeting in Columbia, former UM System president Gary Forsee said MU would work closely with the company to benefit the university.

"The IBM announcement in Columbia was one of those game-changers," he said. "Some 800 jobs created in Columbia and the opportunity for our campus to be integrated with IBM. it's a unique opportunity."

Musser said the facility would provide opportunities for students to work in Columbia after graduation.

"We have often heard from students a desire to find work in Columbia," he said.

Although there were several reasons IBM chose Columbia for its new location, Musser feels the entire educational ecosystem of Missouri was a key factor in the decision. IBM was attracted not only to MU but also to local two-year institutions and the three other universities in the UM system.

The educational opportunities will ensure IBM a solid base of educated employees.

"There are other places they've put similar facilities, and they've had a problem filling their positions with skilled workers," Musser said.

Musser said the computer science staff is excited about collaborating with IBM and hopes the new location will open the door for other companies to move to Columbia.

"My interest is in developing an entire technology ecosystem in mid-Missouri that will then continue to bring other companies here," he said.

Regional Economic Development Inc. President Michael Brooks, who helped bring IBM to Columbia, said IBM was attracted by the state's incentive package as well as the city's offer to rent the office space for $1 a year for ten years.

Brooks said he thinks jobs added by IBM will help other sectors of the community grow.

"IBM is creating over $40 million of annual payroll in the community," he said. "Those 800 jobs will create another 400 to 500 in retail, service, and other sectors of the economy by virtue of more money coming into the community."

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