Study at CCT: We speak to Neil Gallagher to find out more

Considering a career in ICT or business? CCT is one of Ireland’s leading of computing and information technology education providers. We spoke to Neil Gallagher of CCT to find out about their courses, the industry and what it’s like to study at CCT.

Tell us a little about yourself. When did you become involved in education?

Since I went to primary school!  I hope to stay involved and learning until my last day!  The American College on Merrion Square gave me my first job at 19 in their Admissions Office. I worked in Admissions and Marketing of higher education until I founded the College of Computing Technology (CCT) in my late 20s. I don’t know anything else really –  I love football and all kinds of music, plus I am married with two very young boys and two dogs! 

What are the most popular courses?

Our most popular programmes are the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, and Bachelor of Business degree. There also are a number of evening and night courses that are consistently delivered and attract lots of students. The Cisco Certified Network Associate and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate are both very popular. Our diploma courses in Java Programming, Python Programming and Big Data Technology Skills are also very well received. In addition, the diplomas in Strategic Business Information Technology as well as Web and Mobile Applications Development are incredibly popular.

We hope to provide an evening scheduled Higher Diploma in Science in Computing at Level 8 in October 2017. In addition, we will offer new Masters programmes in Software Development, Data Analytics and Cybersecurity from 2018 and 2019 on.

How many students does a class typically have?

Our evening part time training courses, featured on Nightcourses.com, normally have 10-15 students in a class.

How much one-on-one time with instructors can students expect?

Students at CCT can expect to get to know their instructors very well throughout the course. They have a lot of one-on-one contact time, as well as after class support by email and phone generally.

 Tell us a bit about your students. Are they school leavers, mature students or employed people seeking to upskill?

We get the lot! CCT provides full time Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI) validated awards. We also offer part time industry-aligned training programmes, alongside part time academic ICT and business related courses.

We attract school leavers, mainly from the CAO scheme in Ireland and mature students. In addition, many of our evening students are employed. Then through state initiatives such as Springboard+ and ICT Skills Funding, we attract unemployed and employed looking to upskill.

If someone has no background in ICT – can’t even code HTML – but wants to learn, what course would you recommend as a start?

In terms of our part time evening and weekend scheduled courses, our Intro to Computer Programming is a  great starter course.  However, the diplomas in Java or in Python Programming are both great foundations too.

Other than a willingness to study, what qualities does a student need to succeed?

The main ingredient is an interest and passion about the subject they are studying.  Sometimes, you need to do a portion of or a whole course to realise that a particular subject is not for you. Commitment, hard work, and persistence are all very important. This is definitely true considering the busy lives we all lead nowadays, particularly for those working full time and studying part time.

Do you think anyone can learn ICT skills, or do you need a certain temperament or personality?

Yes, of course, learning is universal and ICT skills are no exception. One of the biggest challenge we have is removing existing perceptions – the idea that programming is very difficult or that IT is only for geeks.

ICT skills cover many areas. This is why everyone who attends a course can figure out what they like, what they don’t. When they do, they can then build a career path on what interests them and what excites them most.

The biggest ingredient someone needs to learn ICT skills is to have the motivation to do so in the first place. It’s our job as educators to do the rest. That’s why we’re in the business of education.  Another nice thing to have is patience, but that’s the same with everything we learn. We recommend starting off your ICT learning journey with measured steps. You need support throughout your learning. This helps you grow in confidence as you move from a beginner to an expert.

With the ICT industry constantly changing, how do you make sure qualifications are always up-to-date?

Yes, the ICT industry does indeed change, but a lot of fundamentals stay the same. So in some ways, old qualifications can be ‘upgraded’ to a newer approach of doing the same thing. We see this a lot in networking areas, for example.

Generally in Ireland for ICT related qualifications, we have two types, academic and professional.  Undergraduate academic qualifications generally don’t need to be upgraded on an annual basis. However, they are statutorily programmatically reviewed every 3 to 5 years. As a result, we have an opportunity to upgrade them in terms of changing technologies.

Of course, it’s always nice to be familiar with cutting edge technology. That’s where our professional qualifications come in. Some professional qualifications are updated every year or two, some sooner than that, and some longer.  So, it depends. But either way, if you’re carving out a professional career in IT you need to stay up-to-date. That means reading technical magazines, reading content found on the internet, and then figuring out where you are in that pathway that you may have selected.  At CCT we engage with our students to figure out the best pathway for the individual.

You also offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. Can you tell us a bit about this?

We provide a 3 year Level 7 ‘Ordinary’ degree programme in Business, with a Level 8 additional add-on year to attain the ‘Honours’ qualification in Business.

The degree description terms ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Honours’ derive from the National Framework of Qualifications. I do not like the term ‘Ordinary.’  In the words of one of our former part time students and former WBA and European Super Bantamweight Champion, Bernard Dunne, “There is nothing Ordinary about doing a degree!”

Our Bachelor of Business programme was first developed during recessionary Ireland. It provides a comprehensive foundation in all areas of business management. In addition, it prepares and equips graduates to establish and create their own business enterprises.

The College is fortunate to have two vibrant and growing faculties: Business, and ICT. Work is ongoing to develop Strategic Business Information Technology programmes. These will be validated by QQI at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and benefit from combining the wide range of expertise in existence at the College.

What do you think are the most important qualities that set CCT apart?

I think what I am quite proud of is that as we have grown we have managed to keep close to our hearts a clear sense of our value system. As a result, we ensure that we always have the student or trainee at the core of everything we do.

We pride ourselves on constantly striving to maintain high standards of student care and support. Therefore, we maintain an open-door policy and our faculty are very accessible both within the classroom and outside contact hours.

Our faculty have all worked in the ICT and business industry. Some are still engaged in outside consultation projects. This rich academic and professional knowledge allows our staff to discuss topics through a number of perspectives.  This creates quality in-class discussion and debate with our students.

Another key aspect of CCT is our ability to be nimble when there’s a shift in the ICT world. We have specific budgets set aside to purchase products and services that may be suitable for a particular cohort in very short time frames. This makes learning active and relevant throughout all of our programmes.

A further unique approach we have adopted because of our diverse faculty skill-set, is the ability to have faculty members share particular module content during the same module. This means that a core module or subject area can be delivered with support of other faculty members with similar experience.  This again encourages debate and discussion. No one faculty member ‘owns’ a subject area within any of our programmes. We have a shared ownership approach. This makes everything we do rich in knowledge and expertise and very student centered.

 


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