Mercyhurst, Central Tech announce launch of new intel program

Young minds thrive in fast times. Nowhere is that more evident than in today’s high-tech, knowledge-driven society. That’s why the Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies (MCIIS), the Boys and Girls Club of Erie (BGCE) and the Erie School District are partnering to empower youth to reach their full potential by training a new generation of “intelligence technologists.”

On Thursday, June 11, officials from all three institutions will gather in the Central Tech library at 10 a.m. to unveil plans for a new, cutting-edge academic program – the Intelligence Technologist Initiative (ITI) – to be offered at Central Tech beginning in the fall.

“This is a major community undertaking with the goal of providing job opportunities for Erie’s young people, particularly those from challenged backgrounds, by equipping them with skills that are in demand in the public and private sectors,” said organizer Robert J. Heibel, MCIIS director. An intelligence technologist, he explained, uses computer research and information technology skills to support the work of today’s intelligence analysts who work in national security, law enforcement and private business.

“Creating graduates today for tomorrow’s information-rich world is being accomplished through the Intelligence Technologist Initiative at Central Tech,” said Erie Schools Superintendent Dr. James Barker. “The partnership of Mercyhurst College, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Erie School District demonstrates how collaboration can greatly enhance student competence. The Intelligence Technologist Initiative is a world-class example on how to engage and educate students to help close the digital divide.”

Heibel, who founded the intelligence studies program at Mercyhurst that has been producing highly skilled intelligence analysts for more than 17 years, said the new initiative will capitalize on that success by turning the focus on high school students.

While the program is open to any interested student, it is being geared toward those who are not college-bound but may be well suited for supportive careers in the intelligence field.

David Kranking, director of technical education in the Erie School District, said Central Tech offers a 1,300-hour, four-year IT program that has been modified to incorporate an emphasis on intelligence. He said students who complete the four-year concentration “can graduate with a certificate in intelligence technology and get right into a career situation.”

Besides computer competence, students will be trained in communication skills, research methods, Internet awareness and teamwork along with applicable liberal arts classes like history and geography. MCIIS curriculum development coordinator Rick Lamb will develop the eight intelligence courses to be offered as part of the concentration. Mercyhurst will also provide instructional support.

An ITI prototype was successfully delivered as an after-school program for seventh and eighth grade students at the BGCE and at Jefferson School last year. That program will continue in the fall as well.

According to BGCE Executive Director Al Messina, “The kids we serve often come from disadvantaged circumstances and what I like about this program is that if they pick up these skills in our introductory coursework and continue developing that knowledge in high school, they could come out with a diploma that would put them to work in government or the private sector. College is oversold. It’s not for everyone and we feel confident that these kids will be employable and have the opportunity to do something significant with their lives.”

The Intelligence Technologist initiative is made possible in part by the financial support of the Black Family Foundation and eBizITPA.
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