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SAS® skills help George Brown College grads gain career success

George Brown College, in the heart of downtown Toronto, serves a diverse student body with a rich program mix of apprenticeship training, certificates, diplomas and degrees. The college has a reputation for producing workplace-ready graduates with highly relevant skills. It began teaching SAS® Enterprise Miner™ and SAS® Enterprise Guide® to marketing students in its business program so graduates would gain valuable experience in using analytics to solve complex problems facing today’s business decision makers.

Since 1967, George Brown College has been creating and continually enhancing relevant programs to serve the needs of both students and employers by producing workplace-ready graduates. When the Toronto community college’s School of Business faculty became aware that job ads for marketing professionals were calling for candidates to have SAS skills, they incorporated the teaching of SAS Analytics software into the school’s B409 Business Strategic Relationship Marketing Program.

There is a strong demand for marketers who can combine marketing acumen with analytics to turn customer and market information into insights that drive strategic marketing programs and communication campaigns. SAS Enterprise Guide and SAS Enterprise Miner are an integral part of George Brown’s marketing studies program, teaching students how to harness vast amounts of information to market to different customers using targeted campaigns and to create loyalty-building programs.

“In 2004 we began teaching SAS because we recognized the need to bring these skill sets to marketing students,” said Tom Supra, Professor of Computer Studies with the George Brown School of Business, who teaches the B409 program. “The future is numbers – businesses need to be able to analyze their information to make strategic decisions. That means the future is with SAS.”

With relevant career skills and co-op work experience, George Brown graduates are highly sought after in the marketplace. Nine out of 10 graduates get a job within six months of graduation, and 90 percent of employers report that they are satisfied with graduates they’ve hired. The college, which offers 150 full-time programs and 1,200 continuing education courses with three campuses and 10 training facilities, has formed close strategic relationships with industry, government agencies, community partners and educational associations. “We partner with business leaders, and they tell us what their needs are,” said Supra. “We design our courses around those needs.”

Within the B409 program, students can choose to specialize in marketing analysis or database marketing. Using SAS Enterprise Miner, students learn data preparation and data mining techniques in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Students are also taught to use SAS Enterprise Guide so they learn Base SAS syntax formulation for descriptive statistics, as well as predictive modeling skills.

Students gain real-world experience by going out into the business world and acquiring a data set from a real organization. They then go through the process of cleansing the data, running it through SAS and performing analytics to produce results for the “client.” At the end of the program, students have experience dealing with data on several different levels.

The B409 program has grown over the years, and Supra is looking to expand the use of SAS in the marketing program and beyond. At first, the college had about a dozen students enrolled in the B409 program. Today it has between 30 and 40 students twice a year; the frequency of the program was increased due to its popularity. “It has grown in leaps and bounds,” said Supra. “In the early days, students had no idea what they’d be doing after completing the program or what types of jobs to apply for. Now they’re aware that a strong background in SAS Analytics opens up all kinds of career opportunities for them.”

George Brown has developed a strategic partnership with SAS, which includes student work placements in the marketing department of SAS’ Toronto office, as well as other partner organizations. SAS’ Global Academic Program – which works closely with professors, students and researchers to support the use of SAS software in teaching, learning and research – has also helped Supra evolve the course curriculum.

“The SAS Global Academic Program has been a huge benefit to me,” said Supra. “SAS’ summer training program helped me clarify the direction of the course curriculum, in terms of what students need to learn. Now I’m much more focused. SAS has also provided me with teaching materials and online resources, which are incredibly helpful. And I have full access to SAS’ help centre to research issues with SAS.”

Supra believes other departments in the college would benefit from the use of SAS. He’s working on a new course, called DigiMarketing, for the general marketing diploma program, which offers enrollment to 500 students. His goal is to pioneer another course under the George Brown umbrella on Web intelligence to groom students for the world of Web metrics, using SAS Web Analytics.

“Most students don’t have computer skills when they come into the marketing program. They’re comfortable using Web 2.0 technologies, but they’re not strong in the area of business application knowledge,” said Supra. “Once they learn data mining skills with SAS, they’re riveted – they feel empowered because they know exactly what they need to know to succeed in the workplace.”

Copyright © SAS Institute Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tom Supra,
Professor of Computer Studies with the George Brown School of Business

George Brown College

Challenge:

George Brown College has a mandate to ensure its marketing students are prepared for working in today’s business world with relevant data analytics skills.

Benefits:

Using SAS Enterprise Miner, students learn data preparation and data mining techniques in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Students are also taught to use SAS Enterprise Guide so they learn Base SAS syntax formulation for descriptive statistics, as well as predictive modeling skills.

In 2004 we began teaching SAS because we recognized the need to bring these skill sets to marketing students. The future is numbers – businesses need to be able to analyze their information to make strategic decisions. That means the future is with SAS.

Tom Supra

Professor of Computer Studies, School of Business, George Brown College

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