On May 21, 50 students from Skyline High School’s Computer Academy clambered out of a bus on Center Street and poured into the foyer of Berkeley City College. Just as enthusiastically awaiting them were BCC faculty and staff, and executives and technology architects from SAP.
Half of the kids headed up to meet Mary Clarke-Miller, an animation and game design faculty member within the Multimedia Art Department. The other half went to meet with Catherine Nichols to hear about their financial aid options.
Katie Morgan, head of corporate social responsibility for North America at SAP, spoke first with the students in Clarke-Miller’s room. Morgan explained that SAP was excited to join forces with the Computer Academy program to promote the growth of talented students in the field of technology. “These programs are essential for SAP and, to be honest, to the whole tech-sector. There’s a huge lack of talent and it’s just going to get worse and worse…we think that by embedding a passion for technology and true skills in high school students starting in 9th grade by the time they’re 20 [years old] and have an associate’s degree they can actually be truly workforce ready.” She urged the students to rethink what a career in technology could look like.
“A lot of students don’t know that there are really cool jobs in technology like with sport teams, with the NBA, with Nike so part of what I’m trying to do is to show them – you can actually work at a cool company, you can have really cool benefits and you don’t have to sit in a cube coding all day.” As a further incentive, she told the students that the starting salary for many in the industry can be as high as $75,000 a year.
Clarke-Miller spoke to the students about the virtues of the community college experience and particularly the things available to them at BCC, such as one of the only green screens in the area. She also told them that what drew her to the field, “I was always interested in computer science and high logic work, high process work. I was also interested in fine art. Then I found the computer.” She married her passion for fine art with her passion for computers and found a match in game design.
Clark-Miller then invited the kids to come forward and try out the new Oculus goggles before participating in a design project using Maya© Animation software. Mugisha Mutahaba waited excitedly in line for his turn. What was he getting out of this day so far? “I just want to have a job I can enjoy. I want to be a software innovator because you basically get paid for your ideas and I think that’s pretty cool to get paid for something that’s in your head and sharing it with other people.”
Students at the front of the line were excited to try the goggles, which actually allow you to enter, look and walk around an animated world.