A two-foot tall shiny, white robot stands at the head of the classroom. Over the next few years, high school students will learn how to develop computer programming that will instruct the robot to walk, wave, speak, and complete a variety of actions. These programming skills are what the future experts in telecommunications will use to help deliver the technology we use every day to stay connected.

The classroom is the setting for Guam Community College’s newest telecommunications program for high school students, where the future of the industry on Guam and the Marianas received advice from IT&E CEO Jim Oehlerking.

“[…] There’s no business that doesn’t have telecom people. It’s tremendously broad opportunity for you,” Oehlerking told students at the launch of the program on Sept. 25.

GCC partnered with Guam Department of Education to add telecommunications to its catalog of Career and Technical Education secondary programs. The Telecommunications program, now only offered at Tiyan High School, provides instruction in computer systems, Javascript programming, Python programming, Linux operating systems, and computer networks.

Students who complete the three-year class will graduate from high school with 19 college credits for GCC’s Computer Science Associate’s program as well as a Certificate of Mastery. Students must maintain a “B” grade or better and participate in the 180-hour work experience component of the course to earn the credits.

Eighty-five students are enrolled in the program for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Studying telecommunications offers opportunities on a global scale, Oehlerking told students. He added that there are many opportunities for internships and apprenticeships locally that will expand their knowledge and prepare them to enter an ever-evolving industry.

A graduate of a community college himself, Oehlerking encouraged students to take advantage of the program and the 19 college credits they could earn.

“If you utilize this program, there’s a lot of areas that you can tap into – some are internships, some are ongoing apprenticeship programs. Make the most of it,” he said.

Photo caption: Jim Oehlerking (far right) takes a quick group selfie with students of the newest telecommunications class at Tiyan High School.

The telecommunications industry in the Marianas, Guam, and the world continues to grow and transform. Someday, one of the graduates of GCC’s telecommunications program may be at the forefront of the industry.

The introduction of the course was two year sin the making, according to GCC President Mary Okada.

“The Guam Chamber of Commerce started the conversation. They started talking about coding. They started talking about: ‘how do we develop young minds into telecom?’ and ‘how do we prepare them for the workforce?'” Okada said.

GCC, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, and local telecom companies engaged in conversations about developing a “Silicon Village” (a reference to California’s Silicon Valley which serves as the global center for technology, innovation, and social media). In this Silicon Village, local skills and expertise in telecommunications and technology are cultivated.

The conversations, and the eventual creation of the program, align with national conversation and opportunities for economic growth and development, Okada said.

“It’s with all these conversation and with these collaborations. . . that we can really build the future of IT here on Guam and give students the opportunity to be successful, enter the workforce, and to be contributing members to the economy and our society,” she said.

Photo Caption: Guam Community College launched its telecommunications program at Tiyan High School on Sept. 25. Pictured are students enrolled in the course, leaders of Guam telecom industry, Lt. Gov. Raymond Tenorio, and officials from Guam Community College and Guam Department of Education.