COLLEGE Multimedia-PART 2

By Russ Emal

A few decades ago it was easier to define the job market in the Mendocino area. The timber industry still flourished and, on the coast, the fishing industry employed large numbers of people.

Thousands of additional people were employed in support of both industries. But, as there has been a radical reduction in the work force in both, we must look to new ways to support the ever growing population of Mendocino County.

Today, workers are primarily employed in two industries; Grape growing/wine making as well as the tourist industry. A quick close look at both of these business will tell you that, except for a few top end jobs, the rate of pay is very low. Grape pickers, cellar rats, bed makers, hamburger flippers and dishwashers are all paid a bare minimum wage.

As we look toward the future we must find new ways to support ourselves. Last month, in part one of this two part series on multimedia, I opened the discussion with a short summary about how the College of Marin set about looking at the future of its local work place and what part the school had to play in that future.

After many months of research and planning, the College of Marin decided upon a course of action that culminated in a comprehensive Certificate and AA program in multimedia. Plain and simple. Presently and in the near future, thousands of new job opportunities will emerge from this industry, so the college felt its place was to teach local students multimedia studies so that they could take part in this rapidly blossoming industry.

***

But what of Mendocino College? Are there jobs here in multimedia? If not, should our college teach local residents courses in this field when there are currently few good jobs in the county?

Over the last year, I have spoken to many Mendocino College administrators and counselors. I have been told that since no comprehensive study has been done to show that multimedia jobs exist in our area, our administration's position is to limit its scope of education in this field.

One of the school's Deans of Instruction, Susan Bell, met with me a couple of weeks ago to talk about the subject. Dean Bell is frankly one of the more enlightened administrators on the subject and possibly the strongest supporter of multimedia training at our school.

I asked her whether any studies had been done by the school, studies similar to the one College of Marin has done, to access the potential of a growing job market in the field. "No," Bell told me, "not by our school or as far as I know, not by anyone. I have on several occasions asked PIC (Private Industry Council) to do research on emerging occupations."

Bell went on to say, "Until we know for certain there is an ongoing and significant labor demand, our school's policy will change slowly, if at all. Since we have no assurances of this, we are stuck infusing computer technology into existing programs.

"We do, however, have a start on new computer studies programs here at the college. A graphic arts program is being developed. As it is, I feel that Mendocino College has one of the best two year art programs in the state. The art faculty and I would like to see it expanded by offering a far greater number of computer based graphic arts courses. Unfortunately, as of today, we have a great lack of both human and financial resources. While we are looking to hire part-time teachers in the field, the lack of funding for permanent staff in the program is of great concern to me. Will we get the needed money to advance this program? I don't know. But as we continue to integrate technology into our training for art majors they will become far more employable."

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Jasmine Loiselle is an instructor of multimedia studies at College of Marin and a graphic artist. She helped design the Basketball Hall of Fame, was a graphic artist for MIT Press, Apple Computer and Rebock International. Today, Loiselle teaches in Marin and the Academy of Art College in San Francisco.

Ms. Loiselle agrees with Dean Bell on the job potential for fine artists that also have training in computer based graphic arts. "After struggling as a fine artist for many years, I studied graphic arts production on a computer. Fine artists the world over are starving. But, for the graphic artist in the multimedia field, work is plentiful."

I asked Loiselle if multimedia work would become available in Ukiah quicker if training is made available. She said, "The field is exploding. Very soon work will be available everywhere. Work that might be produced in places like Ukiah can be sent anywhere in the world via the internet. Generally, businesses move into areas where there are trained people, not into an area hoping that training will become available. One of the big reasons that the field is growing so quickly in Marin is our college. Our administration has vision."

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King Collins, a Mendocino College teacher, insists that we must train in the multimedia field. He says, "Just teaching multimenda to people with a fine arts background isn't good enough. Maybe 5% of the industry comes into the field from that beginning. What about the rest of our student population? I commend Susan Bell her support but we need to dig deeper and think about what we can do with what we've got. Mendocino College has a serious newspaper. It has a good art department and english writing program. All vital parts of multimedia. But we need to put these together to better the whole. We need a cooperative interdisciplinary program. Does the Administration have a plan for this kind of interdisciplinary approach? The department heads and staff should sit down together and really try to find solutions...

"What's our vision? That was the same question asked by the Accreditation Committee last year. One of their main critcisms was, 'Hey guys, where is your vision? Where is your plan?' We really need a good one, one that takes into consideration this wonderful place we live in and the tremendous talent that surronds us in the community. The community provides the essential part of our content. We have so much more to work with, contentwise, than other places. We are ideally located for a multimedia program."

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A few weeks ago Marin College gave their third annual electronic barbecue. It is an event designed to attract attention to the multimedia field and College of Marin's program. Recruiters from all the prominent companies were there. They were all looking for trained people to hire.

I spoke with Jerry Shorrock, an architectural craftsman and designer and the coordinator of the Job Search Locator Board at the barbecue. I told him that Mendocino College had a limited number of multimedia courses offered and was reluctant to expand the program.

I asked him if this was a sound course of action. Shorrock said, "Failing to provide multimedia training is a huge tactical mistake by Mendocino College. Our youth is demanding this type of training. The computer skills of today's high school students are simply amazing. All of today's youth are very advanced in the use of computers and they want more training from our local colleges. Students get training where they live or they go somewhere else to get it and when they leave, they also rob the region of income potential. Our junior colleges must provide all these emerging students with vocational computer training. Especially multimedia training. If Mendocino College does not provide it they are failing their youth."

I asked him to tell me about the jobs he heard about during the very successful two day barbecue. "Company after company approached me offering seven to fifteen dollar an hour jobs, internships and work experience positions. I am talking about companies like ILM, Broderbund and Storm Front Studios. The growth of this industry is amazing. The internet makes everybody's computer/telephone a home office. By the year 2000 over 30% of the multimedia work will be done by contractors at home offices. They don't care if you live in Marin, Ukiah or Tokyo. You can live anywhere and still work anywhere. Will there be work in Ukiah? Not if there aren't trained people. But with some basic training, yes, there is definitely lots of work."

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David Smith is a Ukiah resident and a leader in the multimedia field; "In the last year or so I produced two interactive CD titles. 'Welcome to the 1996 Olympics' and 'The NFL Trivia Quiz'. Both projects required many technicians in the multimedia field. None came from Ukiah. We had to go elsewhere because Ukiah has not produced trained people. Mendocino College teaches Photoshop. With the additional training in Director, work could become available from me and the rest of the world." Smith has taught at Mendocino College in the past and told me that he would love to train his future work force at the college.

The cost of training in multimedia is not inexpensive. Much of the needed hardware and software is already in place at the college. Mendo has an unusually fine sound studio on campus. What we lack are about a dozen copies of some software application programs, including Director. What the college really needs is vision and the money for teachers. Basically, these are the same problems College of Marin faced when they started out. But by working with the community, ways were found to make it happen. As it is said, "To reach the end of any journey, one must take the first step."

What College of Marin did was to say it can happen. What they had was a vision and a commitment to train local students in the fastest growing field in the world, multimedia. Today it leads the State of California in this type of training while Mendocino College continues to fall behind.

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Last Update: 11/8/96