Thank your universities because they're filling the smart cities talent gap


By Jesse Berst, Smart Cities Council

The competition for technicians skilled in IT, Big Data and the other technologies smart cities require has been heating up for some time. A broad range of industries, from banking to manufacturing, need talented IT and analytics professionals, too.

Just a few short years ago, Council Lead Partner IBM and Dublin City University designed a masters degree program in computer science emphasizing Big Data, business analytics and smarter cities. It didn't take long for other institutions to see the growing demand for specialized technical training. Today, universities, vocational schools and other educational outlets are offering a variety of programs from short courses to full masters degrees to prepare students in several smart cities-related fields. And considering how quickly the smart cities and related markets are growing, it's safe to say there will be more.

The smart cities market is expected to more than double over the next few years as more and more cities commit to smart city transformations. Those cities will need skilled technicians (and urban planners and architects) capable of managing and using the technologies that keep smart cities running smoothly.

The good news is the number of universities and other educational institutions offering the training those technicians need is growing, and it's growing globally. We thought you'd be interested in some of the available programs.

Spain's IED Barcelona offers a post-graduate Smart City Design program focusing on designing the digital layer of cities, green spaces, public and commercial spaces and navigation systems. During the three-month program, students work with mentors and faculty to design solutions. The program collaborates with Big Data companies as part of the program of lectures and workshops.

The University of Alabama's Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center offers a two-year online professional postgraduate program in the principles, applications and technologies needed to create smart cities. Open to professionals working in smart city-related fields—such as ICT, healthcare, policy development, urban planning and design, transportation, environment and architecture—the program provides training in sustainable urban development, low carbon and renewable energy systems, natural resource development, data analytics and other smart technologies.

Council Advisor Arizona State University's School of Sustainability has been offering undergraduate and graduate programs and short courses on sustainability issues with specialty options like technology and society, policy and administration for some time. Early this year, the university and Council Associate Partner Intel hosted 20 faculty members from Ho Chi Minh City's Vietnam National University where they were acquainted with IoT technology and applications for smart cities.

For the past few years, MIT faculty have taught short program courses in energy, transportation, innovation and technology and sustainability through its Beyond Smart Cities professional program.

Support for smart cities education programs
Council Lead Partners Microsoft and IBM provide support for educational institutions through collaborations and providing programs designed to help educators teach students about smart city technologies and other topics. Through its Imagine Academy program, Microsoft provides a full curriculum program for the classroom, which includes support for educators teaching technology skills. IBM offers several education solutions for students from kindergarten through graduation in subject areas such as mobility and infrastructure, analytics and collaboration and access—and also can provide technological support for a more conducive learning experience.


Jesse Berst is chairman of the Smart Cities Council, which helps cities use technology to become more livable, workable and sustainable. The Council publishes the free Smart Cities Readiness Guide, which provides help and advice for crafting a smart cities vision, plan of action and method of tracking progress.



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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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