Writing about Northwest College and esports got me thinking about the academic end of what is, after all, a huge industry (worth around $1.5 billion in 2019). What, I wondered, must our youth learn …
Writing about Northwest College and esports got me thinking about the academic end of what is, after all, a huge industry (worth around $1.5 billion in 2019). What, I wondered, must our youth learn to actually pursue a career within the world of game creation, distribution, and management?
For that matter, what about all the other computer-centric employment opportunities? There’s been an explosion of them — everything from the robotics in manufacturing to automated systems in transportation to self-driving vehicles. Moving up the food chain, retailers and wholesalers are computerizing ordering and stocking, delivery and billing ... even personnel management.
Whether these innovative models are long for this world or not is another question (take the Iowa Democratic Party caucus-counting app that definitely is not). Still, functional or not, they are the future. We see it every day. Jobs that once looked to be secure (think cashier, as one small example) are vanishing right across the economy. On the plus side, even more jobs are being created.
Think about it. You have soldiers using training simulators to learn to kill more efficiently and drone pilots dropping bombs on America’s enemies or whomever. You have doctors in remote clinics and hospitals using cameras and computers to show specialists — sometimes thousands of miles away — what they’re dealing with and to then follow their instructions. You have uses in law enforcement, aviation, teaching, building, architecture, anthropology, bioengineering, the stock market, banking, crowd control and so on. You have lawmakers estimating unexpected consequences and philosophers like Stephen Pinker crunching numbers and probabilities.
Now, we’re talking many multiples of billions of dollars in revenue.
Great! But, it also takes us back to the earlier question: What does a person need to know to qualify for the new jobs — to get a piece of this action? So, I went hunting and found a relevant college degree program called Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulation.
I know. Just try to remember that ... let alone live with it. Hopefully, someone will come up with an easier name. Something short and sweet like “Futurejobs”? For the moment, I’m going to call it “MoVES.”
With these MoVES degrees, students can hope to “move” (pun intended) directly into well-paying jobs. Plus, they should have acquired a foundation that will let them evolve right along with the tools they both use and create.
Anyway, a bunch of schools now offer MoVES degrees at various levels, from two-year associates degrees to masters and doctorates. The idea is that students will study their way across an interdisciplinary program as well as through a new discipline known as Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC). I gather LVC simply refers to the degree of involvement between computers and human, ranging from exclusively human through a wide range of human/computer interactive possibilities to exclusively computer.
Have I lost you yet? I certainly had to take a deep dive into Google and study definitions and how those change when you put some of these words together with others — like Virtual Reality and Defense Modeling and Embedded Training, and Models and Simulation.
With my brain struggling through an informational muck, I went to sleep afterwards muttering, “But what does it mean? What does it mean?”
If you share my confusion, take comfort in this: there’s such a proliferation of names and meanings that the Pentagon has organized and dedicated an entire, gigantic office to sort out this wild west ... or, if you prefer, this new frontier. Which isn’t easy, because every day brings something new.
But back to MoVES, one of the things I love about this degree program (beyond its obvious advantages in the employment market as a field of study) is its absence from any Wyoming, Montana or Idaho school. An internet search shows that no college in our geographic area offers it.
The pluses for the regional school that gets in first are obvious. Such a program would attract the best and brightest minds in our area — it would be a magnet for young people interested in computers and information technology. I can see the advertising: Want a role on the cutting edge of a transitional world? Come to Northwest College and move with MoVES.
Yes! Such a program could put NWC on the map and in the black ... and over time, maybe even pay for a new student union.
Another thing: Consider the possible local economic impact. Graduating students who understand and can manipulate simulation equipment and interoperability tools could have real economic spin-off effects for Powell and Park County. The presence of an available trained and skilled workforce might well be the tipping factor in attracting small high-tech companies to the area. And what a plus for existing businesses looking to upgrade and modernize!
But, here’s the kicker: When it comes to the kids who might be attracted to NWC for its gaming competition program, once they’ve completed a MoVES degree with its solid and rigorous cross-disciplinary coursework, writing code for video games will be duck soup.
A dream? Yes. But while we’re dreaming, why not dream big. Why not encourage NWC to offer ab associates MoVES degree? As a matter of fact, why not keep those kids here for a full four-year program? It would be better for them and, I’m betting (since I’m a gamer at heart), that it would be better for the community and the college, too.