he recent appointment of Rend Lake College administrator Salah Shakir to a national wireless consortium is keeping RLC in the know regarding the rapidly changing field of global wireless technology.
In the get-it-now world of wireless technology, staying up to date with current industry and educational trends in the field is an absolute necessity in providing the contemporary and concise curriculum found in the RLC Wireless Technology program. There are very few programs in the U.S. like it.
Shakir, Vice President of Information Technology and Student Services at RLC, was appointed about three months ago to GWEC - the nation’s Global Wireless Educational Consortium. GWEC is governed by a list of directors with varied backgrounds in education and industry pertaining to global wireless and cellular technology. The organization provides Shakir with vast resources regarding the educational aspects of a wireless technology degree and the wireless industry itself. Although he will attend his first two-day meeting in October in Arlington, Va., Shakir is already making contacts through the consortium.
He is currently in contact with a recipient of the 2006 GWEC Educator of the Year award, John Baldwin, responsible for the development of the Wireless Communications Associate in Applied Science Degree program at South Central College in North Mankato, Minn. The award honors the achievements of post-secondary educators whose demonstrated leadership in wireless education is deemed outstanding.
“I’m working with him to see how he can help our Wireless Technology program here at Rend Lake College,” Shakir said.
In addition to contact with excellent educational and industry leaders, GWEC also provides him with information about the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum policy relating to wireless technology. According to him, GWEC was created to raise the bar on wireless technology curricula being provided and to reverse a trend where qualified technicians were in short supply.
Shakir was the Director of Information Technology at Shawnee Community College for five years before joining RLC 11 years ago. He also worked for seven years with the Maytag corporation. He resides in Carterville with his wife, Durar, and their two girls - Ayah, 5, and Menna, 2.
According to him, students should be interested in pursuing a degree from Rend Lake College’s Wireless Technology program because there is demand for trained technicians, the pay is good upon employment and individuals can continue with their education in the field.
At a presentation on Friday with RLC President Mark Kern, U.S. Congressman John Shimkus, faculty and staff at RLC, Shakir said market analysis shows wireless technicians are needed.
Officials have designated the cell phone as the third screen in a person’s life, after television and computers, and 30 to 50 jobs are currently needed in Southern Illinois alone, according to him.
In just over two decades, technology has enabled devices to go from cell phones the size of suitcases to hand-held phones with file-sharing capability and transfer speeds comparable to those of a T1 fiber optic cable.
Kern said RLC strives to be on the “cutting edge” of wireless technology.
The college is in the process of obtaining a critical piece of equipment from Verizon to be used for training purposes in the program. The hardware, which Shakir called a “switch” used to operate cellular phone towers, would cost RLC anywhere from $1 million to $5 million. The donation of the switch from Verizon would be a milestone for the program, Shakir said.
The switch is an example of how RLC’s program uses technologically-intensive curriculum and state-of-the-art equipment to train students in wireless technology.
Through the two-year Wireless Technology program, students are trained on working with cellular towers, troubleshooting and monitoring switches at towers, managing and correcting radio frequency issues and adding new cellular towers. There is also an emphasis on software training associated with wireless technology.
For students, the path toward a Wireless Technology degree through RLC starts with an introduction to the general wireless and cellular network and the background of basic electronics. From there, students learn about radio frequency management, voice transmissions over Internet protocol and how switches and towers operate. There also are 240 hours of on-the-job training required. The hands-on training provided to students through the on-the-job portion of the Wireless Technology program is an invaluable tool, Shakir said.
Southern Illinois is overlooked when it comes to wireless technology needs, he added.
High monthly costs for broadband access make it very difficult for rural residents to obtain service from the limited providers available. But, experts are continuing to drive toward their goal of providing affordable broadband access to those who are currently faced with limited and expensive options.
One exciting aspect within the wireless world is advances in technology such as WiMax - the next generation in broadband technology. WiMax’s predecessor, WiFi, enabled wireless signals to be shot over several hundred feet. WiMax allows for a wireless signal to travel miles, Shakir said. Bridging the broadband divide between urban and rural residents by utilizing technology such as WiMax is also creating a bridge for students interested in pursuing a career in wireless technology.
Another focus in the Wireless Technology program at RLC is Homeland Security Industry Education. The RLC program qualifies graduating students for a job as a certified Crisis Management Technician, according to Shakir.
“This going to be at the top of our wireless program,” he said of Homeland Security. “Students graduating in that program could easily go into that field with a two-year degree.”
For more information on the Wireless Technology program at RLC, visit the RLC Web site at www.rlc.edu or call (618) 437-5321, Ext. 1798, or call toll-free (in-district only) at 1-800-369-5321, Ext. 1798.