"Technology talent pipeline" connects students with industry before graduation
Most high school seniors don’t think about the steps needed to land their dream job after college graduation, but Tony Dillon does.
Throughout his time at the CEC, Tony Dillon, Director of Internships for the Integrated Information Technology department, has worked to create what he calls a “technology talent pipeline” from high school to college graduation. Dillon recruits from South Carolina high schools and within the college and ensures that students in the program are given the tools to be successful upon graduation.
“I sort of handhold some of these students and teach them how to greet prospective employers, understand what makes a good resume or how to interact and use proper dining etiquette when they're having a luncheon, while also highlighting technical skill sets and leadership skills. I help with all these different skills,” Dillon says.
Dillon works with the internship class and supports the Capstone programs for IIT seniors and places them in a variety of locations from on-campus jobs to large corporations like Google.
“From the Capstone side of things, our department forms teams of three or four students and those students actually have the experience of working together in a team environment for such companies as Boeing,” Dillon says. “They do a one-semester project that can apply their skillset, so maybe they'll create a website, or they'll create a database, or they'll create something special for these companies.”
The pipeline continues as Dillon brings in IT recruiters and business professionals to speak directly with students. He began this four years ago and now has recruiters on a waiting list to come speak to and hire IIT students.
Every person I know that has a job or an internship right now, it was because of the internship class or a career fair. It has all been because of this department, which is really cool.
- Katherine Zeller, 2020 IIT graduate
All IIT students are required to participate in the Capstone program as well as having a 400-hour internship. Department Chair Elizabeth Regan says that these requirements help to bridge the gap between learning about technology in the classroom and applying it in the business environment.
“Our overall program learning goals are really that the students are prepared with experience with a broad range of technologies as well as a good background in business and project management,” Regan says. “They are prepared to contribute technically to a project team and have a good foundation to be able to grow their career over the years.”
After graduation, many students stay in touch with IIT mentors because of the lasting relationships created throughout the program. Katherine Zeller is a UofSC IIT alumna currently working for Manhattan Associates in Atlanta as a software support consultant. She says the soft skills practice in the internship program seminar helps her to maintain positive relationships with clients in her new role.
“I've noticed a lot of my coworkers have not had a lot of hands-on experience with actually managing projects and working as an account manager in creating proposals. That was something that was kind of cool that I was able to whip out,” Zeller says. “Honestly, every single thing that Professor Dillon taught me I’ve used in my job and in getting the job.”
In terms of the tangible impact this program has, IIT students are graduating with the technical skills necessary to land competitive jobs all across this country. IIT students have gone to work for companies such as Boeing, Dominion Energy, IBM and PRISMA Health.
Recent IIT graduate Joe Fant worked for Boeing in his Capstone program and had an internship with Lowe’s. After graduation, Fant joined the Lowe’s team as a full-time project manager, a direct result of his internship. Fant now comes back to the classroom to recruit other IIT students.
“The Boeing Capstone experience was a fun chance to work with my classmates as a team. We weren't working on some imaginary project. This was real data that they needed and that they wanted us to work on, so understanding that it was real and it mattered gave it value,” Fant says.
What makes UofSC’s IIT graduates stand out so much in the field is Dillon’s commitment to teaching both practical and interpersonal skills. Students receive personalized attention their entire time in the program and graduate with all of the qualifications needed to land top jobs, as well as the ability to connect with people and land interviews.
“Every person I know that has a job or an internship right now, it was because of the internship class or a career fair," Zeller says. "It has all been because of this department, which is really cool."