How vendor specific should uni be?

In our current higher education world, many are unable to find work after university because their degree just wasn't applied enough.

In our current higher education world, many are unable to find work after university because their degree just wasn't applied enough.

But the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), at the top of New Zealand's South Island, might be going too far by adding a VMware module to its Bachelor of IT degree.

Last week, Computerworld reported that in collaboration with VMware, IBM, NetApp and BlueBerryIT, NMIT has embedded a VMware IT Academy curriculum module in its third-year networking.

NMIT says it includes VMware as part of its course to help its graduates get jobs, especially as there is much work about for cloud computing projects and VMware is one of the leading vendors in this area. I'm sure the course also had its roots in consultation with industry.

Just by chance I happened to be in the Nelson-Marlborough region last week and I spoke with the IT tutor involved who repeated to me what he told Computerworld, and added that his graduates were doing well with getting jobs, though he had no exact figures on this.

Now, the whole point of going on such courses is to get a job at the end of it, but it does seem a little dodgy to see a public sector education facility being so in bed with one particular vendor.

More importantly, there are other vendors in this market, such as Hyper-V and Citrix, and if your graduates are so tied to one vendor, might this limit their abilities with the others? Sticking to one vendor or system means that your skills could well be soon out of date, as has happened with Cobol, Novell, etc.

I believe that tertiary institutes are best aimed at delivering wide-ranging, generalist skills — the foundations, not the actual vocation.

Such overt specialisation is instead best supplied by vendor-specific training providers or you can gain such skills while on the job — once you know the specifics of what you actually want or need to do.

However, I also contacted a Marlborough IT service provider for comment, one that specialises in managed services. The technician said that although there would be no case for VMware being a much greater component than being a module but such applied skills would be useful.

Thus, for now, I guess I will give NMIT the benefit of the doubt, believing that the move will lead to better employment prospects for its graduates. Whether this is true five, 10 or more years down the track remains to be seen.