An old computer language finds new relevance for student
Originally featured in Maclean's Magazine.
Algonquin College combines innovation with tradition in its approach to computer science. Keeping pace with shifting industry standards is a priority, but so is producing grads with marketable skills.
That’s why the school’s instructors resurrected training in COBOL—a legacy programming language that has fallen out of fashion with some newer organizations. Old, large institutions, however—like banks and governments—still rely on the system, and with a dearth of programmers practiced in COBOL, Algonquin College has found a niche that adds to their appeal.
“It’s in high demand,” says Todd Kelley, a professor in the program, “and we’re one of the only institutions in the region that offers instruction on it.”
It’s just one reason why the employment rate for graduates is 80 per cent three months out of school. Students in the three-year advanced diploma spend half of their time out of the classroom on co-op work terms. “We enjoy a wide range of employers here in Ottawa,” says Kelley. The federal government snaps up several students each semester, as do corporations like Cisco, IBM and a number of start-ups in the region.
The students graduate with software development, computer engineering and nitty-gritty hardware engineering skills. You’d be hard-pressed to ﬁnd an organization that doesn’t need these services—and prospective students know it. Algonquin experienced a jump in applications to the program in recent semesters, and had a growing waitlist for the winter term by mid-September.