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Virginia Commonwealth University, Reynolds Metals and IBM Partnership Trains Students Using Real e-Business Solutions

Initiative Increases Supply of Skilled IT Professionals

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Richmond, Va - 16 Dec 1999: ... Students and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are working alongside employees of Reynolds Metals Company on a key project involving enterprise resource planning (ERP) software running on an IBM[r] AS/400e[tm]. They are developing a training schedule to support the rollout of the transaction-based software that supports business disciplines as diverse as finance, human resources and manufacturing.

The project is part of a new program in which students learn critical IT skills by helping regional businesses solve a variety of business problems. The "hands-on" business experience is coupled with innovative, futuristic coursework in the classroom. The program was instituted this semester with the support of Reynolds Metals Company and IBM, through its Partners in Education program.

Through this Enterprise-Wide Information Systems Center of Excellence program, VCU helps address the critical shortage of skilled IT professionals facing Virginia and the nation. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the market will need as many as 1.4 million new skilled IT workers between now and 2006, with the most significant impact on California, Texas and Virginia.

The state-of-the-art laboratory used in the Center runs enterprise systems configured to simulate company operations. In the laboratory, the donated IBM AS/400e server is running IBM e-commerce and business intelligence applications and J.D. Edwards donated OneWorld integrated Enterprise Resource Planning software, all on one system.

In concert with the laboratory, the Center of Excellence also provides an information systems curricula that infuses student course work with "real world" business problems. Academic professors, business experts and CIOs select business problems for enterprise applications and systems integration based on current business needs, practices and process improvement measures.

"Our alliance with IBM, J.D. Edwards and VCU demonstrates what strategic partnerships with vendors and the academic community can achieve. Both students and businesses benefit by a matched skill set," said Gary S. Lagarde, senior technologist, Reynolds Metals Company and VCU adjunct professor. "The world class AS/400[r] server that IBM has provided is a key element since we use high end AS/400s at Reynolds to deliver strategic business solutions."

Critical to the success of this Center of Excellence is the inclusion of IBM customers and partners with educators. "Our classroom has expanded. We have a curriculum that is no longer limited to classroom academics or thinking. It harnesses much more of a community's IT resources to educate and train future IT professionals and managers," said Richard T. Redmond, director of technology, Department of Information Systems, VCU. "Response to this learning environment has been explosive. Enrollment has more than doubled, swelling to over 700 majors."

Graduates can earn an MS, MBA, and Ph.D. in information systems with a key competitive advantage. "They're educated on state-of-the-art systems and hardware, such as the AS/400, and can intern with corporations leading the world in the use of these technologies in business," said George M. Kasper, chairman, Department of Information Systems, VCU. "Our students graduate ready to work."

"We want to hire IT professionals that have an understanding of the systems we use, to support our plant operations," says John Rudin, vice president and CIO, Reynolds Metals Company. "The Center of Excellence enables students to understand our needs and provide solutions that reduce complexity while optimizing investments and minimizing operating costs. In fact, we have hired VCU students who have completed internships at Reynolds."

In addition to Reynolds Metals Company and JD Edwards, partners of VCU's Information Systems Department include Capital One Financial, Circuit City Stores, Philip Morris USA, SAP America, SAS, Oracle, James River Technical and Computer Associates.

IBM's Partners in Education (PIE) program is a global initiative aimed at helping customers and partners increase IT skills available to them through their local schools. Celebrating its third year, IBM has donated over $60 million in AS/400 technology to colleges, universities, and secondary schools.

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IBM, AS/400, and AS/400e are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other product names are or may be trademarks of their respective providers.

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