A Fresno-based research-software company is partnering with Fresno State's computer science department on a certification program that means students won't necessarily have to wait until they finish their bachelor's degree to be employment-ready in the technology industry.
Decipher Inc., a fast-growing market-research firm, this week launched an online training program in its proprietary Beacon software. The software program is used by Decipher's clients -- including Facebook, Twitter and eBay -- to build their own market-research surveys and to analyze the results.
Jamin Brazil, Decipher's co-CEO, said the certification program will help cultivate crops of employment-ready students. "Once they are certified, they can get immediate access to our customers who are hiring. It adds a lot of opportunity for either long-term employment or moonlighting," he said.
Brazil lamented the trouble Decipher has meeting its own hiring demands for workers in the Fresno region. He attributed those difficulties to a relatively small number of people with appropriate technology training or skills and to a lack of awareness among students of local opportunities in the technology industry.
The certification program, which was in the discussion stages with Fresno State for about two years, is one way to address both of those challenges.
"Because Decipher has developed its own program, Beacon, there are very specific skills required," said Ming Li, chairman of the computer science department at California State University, Fresno. "In the past, Fresno State has not been able to provide that narrow focus. We teach general software development skills where students work with different systems and different technologies."
Li said with its specialized focus, the certificate partnership provides advantages for both Fresno State and Decipher. "Many times these students taking the certificate course already have a good computer science background, but need more specific training to work for Decipher," Li said.
While the certificate program doesn't count for college credit toward a student's bachelor's degree, Li added, "our major concern is to make sure that if a Fresno State student wants to go to work for Decipher or one of its clients, we want them to be ready."
Susan Elrod, dean of science and mathematics at Fresno State, said the partnership illustrates the interaction between the business community and the university that can benefit both.
"Something like this is a great opportunity for other businesses who have specialized training needs that would enhance their workforce and provide students with preparation for careers," Elrod said. "One thing a university can do is provide connections and opportunities to bring the business community into partnership with the educational expertise that we have."
Brazil said the course "shortens the training cycle for students who graduate to work for Decipher, and provides ready access to a talent pool that we can push out to our clients."
The training program is provided to students over the Internet so they can work on the course at their own pace, Brazil said. Recorded training videos and online projects build a student's understanding of Beacon's programming and use. Brazil said the course is designed for most students to complete the program in about three months. If they pass, they receive a formal Beacon certification.
Brazil said his company, which was founded in San Francisco and moved to Fresno in 2000, continues to grow at a rapid clip. Decipher added about 54 employees to its Fresno office in 2013, boosting the staff to more than 130 at year's end. It hired another 20 people this month.
The company's revenues grew by 27% between 2012 and 2013, and while Brazil would not disclose what that represented in dollars, he said the company is forecasting revenue of $30 million in 2014.
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