Winter (Break) is coming. And while students at Pickens Technical College, like most students everywhere with this time off, are looking forward to opening presents with their families and binge-watching Game of Thrones , you can still use this time to help you prepare for when you inevitably return to class. PTC is unique in the way it prepares students for real careers. Its instructors, faculty, and advisors are all focused on providing PTC students with the best opportunities to find a successful career after graduation by providing hands-on learning experiences, ways to contact employers, and more. In some other school contexts, like high school or a four-year university, it’s easy to think you have plenty of time to lounge around in your pajamas during Winter Break until you’re dragged back to the classroom, but at PTC, your time is limited and valuable.
The goal of finding a good career after graduation from PTC is paramount, which means that your task of finding a job never ends. Here are three things you can do while you’re taking a break from classes to help you reach that goal when you’re finished with PTC for good:
- Update your resume. Pretend that you’ve already graduated from PTC and include that information on your resume. You can even start sending them out to prospective employers while you’re taking your break or soon after you return to school. It’s never too early to start looking around for entry-level jobs using your new talents and skills. When you’re updating your resume, make sure to include related experience from your classes and use your instructors and advisors as references.
- Read up on industry trends. Pick up a magazine or go online to find news about the field you’re planning on getting into. There are trends and changes happening in all professional fields and writers detailing these trends. It’s an easy way to ground yourself in what to expect when you enter the workforce and you’ll have more intelligent questions for your instructor when you come back from break.
- Practice some skills at home. Some of the skills you’ve learned at PTC during the past quarter you can’t practice at home, but there are always things you could be doing to hone your skill in your field in some way or another. You don’t need to take apart your car or your heating unit necessarily, but familiarizing yourself with some of the tools you’ve used in class and how they work won’t hurt you when you return to class. If you’ve struggled with any aspect of class, now’s the time to practice and get better without an audience looking on.
PTC is like anything else, you get out what you put in. Take your time to relax and regroup after a rigorous quarter learning a new skill. Recharge your batteries so you can come back with a fresh mind ready to learn. But don’t forget that your time at PTC is rapidly running out, and you need to at least have one eye on the future after your graduation.
On December seventh, Pickens Technical College students delivered hundreds of toys to the Colfax Community Network as a part of its annual Toy Drive. This is the third consecutive year that PTC students have participated in the drive through their Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) on campus. They have brought in over 500 toys for the Colfax Community Network each year so far.
The Colfax Community Network (CCN) provides services to the people living in the motels on Colfax Avenue, who have little or no access to homelessness services, drug addiction resources, and other services. Many transient families take shelter in some of the roughest stretches of the longest street in America and are largely invisible to the general population and charities that help the poor. Maggie Tidwell, the founder of CCN, became aware of these families while working as a violence prevention educator for Project PAVE in 1996. Three years later, she helped found CCN to help satisfy the needs of this hidden community.
Every year, CCN holds a holiday party for the Colfax community and gives out donated toys to children. PTC became involved in the ‘toy-raising’ behind the leadership of Gill Thompson, Career Services Coordinator at PTC. He helped get the Toy Drive started here. “The Toy Drive is a school wide community service project and it is run by our Career and Technical Student Organizations. The drive is a competition to see who can raise the most toys, the class that raises the most toys, gets a reward of pizza or burritos.” With the extra motivation, students have responded in great numbers, giving some of the Denver area’s most marginalized families something to smile about this Christmas. “They are all new toys and they are usually worth $1-$10 each. The Colfax Community Network provides a list of items to focus on, but we can always go outside the list,” said Thompson.
Community service is a large part of all CTSOs on PTC’s campus, so participation in the organization of the Toy Drive goes towards that. Thompson allows the student members of the CTSOs to deliver the toys themselves. “…it is good for the students to see who they are actually helping—they get more meaning out of it.”
CCN takes a three-pronged approach to helping their constituents living on Colfax Avenue. First, they take care of their physical necessities and make it easier for them to provide for their children and themselves. CCN provides food, hygiene products, diapers, clothing, and more to these families. The second prong is securing these families’ long-term health and stability by connecting them with other resources for housing assistance, educational programs, and career development. The third prong is where students at PTC can help the most. CCN spends most of its resources and energy working with the children and youth of the forgotten Colfax population, investing in them so they can help themselves and their families in the future. The Toy Drive is a part of this support system that CCN has set up for the love of the forgotten families of Colfax and their children.
Pickens Technical College’s Medical Assistant program, headed by instructor Kelly Pruett, is set up to prepare you for a career in the medical industry assisting in the administrative functions and in the primary and specialized care of patients. That was a mouthful, but graduates of the PTC Medical Assistant program have found gainful employment and promising careers in the local healthcare system as well as in healthcare institutions beyond the state of Colorado.
One popular employer of PTC students and medical assistants with all kinds of backgrounds is Children’s Colorado Hospital, a nonprofit hospital for children located in Denver. The healthcare providers and leaders here are all about the proper, compassionate care of children with all kinds of illnesses ranging in severity and type. For over a hundred years, Children’s Colorado has been helping patients with groundbreaking treatment plans and excellent care. Today, it’s a great place to work if you’ve graduated from PTC’s Medical Assistant program. I spoke with Education and Practice Coordinator Harper Garrett about the kind of candidates he is looking for to fill medical assistant positions at Children’s Colorado and what PTC students can do to work at this excellent medical and research facility.
What are you looking for in new employees at the medical assistant position?
We are looking to hire someone with not only strong clinical skills, but [also] someone who has a background in customer service, including communication. We have seen how effective our teams work together when there has been great communication between them.
Can you provide a few success stories of new hires who have done well at Children’s Colorado?
We strive to make sure our MAs (Medical Assistants) feel that they are an integral part of our health care teams. Probably our best story is from an MA who spoke up to her provider because there was something that didn’t seem right with their patient. The provider did some blood work and the patient ended up needing to have lifesaving surgery. The provider let us know that if the MA hadn’t spoken up, she probably wouldn’t have completed the blood work. Another success story I like to share is from an MA that was hired from her externship with us. She not only did an amazing job on her externship but has been so successful in her role, that after only a year she has been promoted to one of our Senior MA positions.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to recent graduates of technical colleges going into the medical assistant profession?
Take your national certification test. More and more employers are requiring you to be certified and it really does give you a leg up on the competition.
Harper Garrett has seen several PTC graduates succeed at Children’s Colorado Hospital over the years and continues to bring in more of Kelly Pruett’s students as new medical assistants because he is confident they can go above and beyond the call of duty in the service of their patients. If you handle your studies and use the resources at your beck and call for employment at PTC, you’ll end up with a great career in the growing healthcare industry.
Pickens Technical College has introduced a new Culinary Arts program that trains students in the art of being a professional chef. Being a professional chef is more than plating dishes and trying to be Anthony Bourdain, it’s a skill that requires plenty of education, experience, and some luck to make it in this competitive and difficult field.
PTC arms its students with the knowledge and background they need to compete in many different fields and its staff and faculty are excited to add another course to their offerings. The Culinary Arts program is a two-semester course that introduces students to cooking fundamentals and baking techniques. You’ll learn about the nutritional properties of different foods and how to manage a kitchen. After this course, you’ll be able to get started in a restaurant and hit the ground running with superior organization skills and a solid understanding of what makes different foods delicious and nutritious. You’ll also impress your normally stern head chefs and supervisors with your knowledge of customer and employee safety, kitchen sanitation, and safe serving techniques. Find out more about the class here .
Teaching this course is the aptly named Taylor Cookingham, a former instructor at Johnson and Wales University’s Denver College of Culinary Arts and an experienced chef, as well as a member of the Colorado Restaurant Association. She hopes to involve her students in a deep understanding of what it means to produce good food and how to routinely create new flavors and sensations in the kitchen.
This new program will open more doors to students who want to learn how the traditions of cooking from an experienced instructor and chef, and show them how to tear down those traditions and go for something new beyond where they thought they could reach. Cookingham plans on helping her students reach their potential as chefs and provide them with opportunities to find work after they graduate from her class by forging connections with the local food scene. She strives to provide the tools her students need to succeed in a variety of culinary arts careers.
If you didn’t know by now, Pickens Technical College’s Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) program trains students for long careers in the engineering, design, and construction fields. CAD is a popular program at PTC because of the many doors this skill can open. Many companies in the Denver area are looking for skilled employees who can use their CAD software to design everything from machine parts to architecture.
One company that is always looking for young talent, especially young talent that can use CAD software, is Oldcastle Building Envelope. They make custom-engineered and designed products specifically for building envelopes (walls, windows, rooves, storefront designs, etc.). Some of these products include window walls, architectural windows, storefront systems, doors, skylights, and architectural glass. These products have to be manufactured exactly to fit specifications of Oldcastle’s clients, all of whom expect a wide portfolio of building envelope components all from the same company.
Oldcastle uses a complex CAD program called BIM IQ to combine product visualization and build product performance into the process from the start. Its BIM IQ Render feature provides design engineers with physically accurate building product visualizations of an architectural product. Designers can use this to generate real-time imagery in local servers or using the cloud. Combined with BIM IQ Energy, which provides product performance feedback for a designer’s decisions when they can still make affordable changes to the product. Oldcastle uses several other proprietary programs to design components for building envelopes such as the estimating tool VistaVision and the glass specification tool GlasSelect.
Truly talented CAD engineers could probably go further into all of the great things that Oldcastle’s BIM IQ can do to help digitally design building envelopes and their components, but students of the CAD program at PTC have a leg up on learning this software and using it to help Oldcastle’s clients. Suzanne Payne, the CAD instructor at PTC, immerses her students in how to use several CAD programs, including AutoCAD for two-dimensional images, Solidworks for three-dimensional mechanical design, and Revit for three-dimensional architectural design. Learning these three programs gives students not only firsthand experience in these in-demand programs, it gives students the tools to learn additional programs such as BIM IQ.
Oldcastle and companies like it tend to hire students with a proven track record of learning new skills quickly and accurately. Payne and indeed the entire staff at PTC train students in specific skills they’ll need in their career of choice, but they also give students the tools to pick up new skills along the way. That’s what employers like Oldcastle Building Envelope are looking for. They want employees who can learn and grow with them in the long term. Students with many skills and a background in learning new CAD software programs are sought after by Oldcastle.
For more information on how to connect with Oldcastle representatives looking for PTC students to hire, contact the extremely useful Career Services Office on campus to visit with the venerable Gill Thompson.
We all need a little help once in a while. At Pickens Technical College, the staff and faculty are all here to help you find a job after you learn everything you can about your dream career and graduate. Learning how to be a medical assistant does you no good if you can’t find a position when you leave PTC’s halls. Luckily, there are plenty of resources and experienced career advisors to help students with their lives post-PTC. I contacted Gill Thompson, PTC Career Services Coordinator, and asked him a few questions about how he and the rest of the PTC Career Services staff help students get jobs after earning their certificates at PTC in any field.
What are a few things that all students can do while they’re still in class at PTC to make sure they find a good job after graduation?
Thompson : All students should utilize our online job board called the College Central Network. There are usually over 150+ jobs posted ranging from all industries and full time and [part] time jobs. They may be able to get a job in their chosen industry before they graduate! They should also participate [in] our Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO’s) because they provide leadership and community service opportunities; this looks really good to employers. Student should also start building resumes when school starts and not wait until the end of the school year. If they start working on their resumes early, they produce a much more professional document. Having a resume, will also prepare them for the annual Employment Fair; where [we] will have over 40 companies in attendance looking to hire students. Lastly, research, research, research; they should research industries and companies because this will help them find a good company in an industry they can excel in.
What’s the most common question you get asked by students on a regular basis?
Thompson: “Can you help me get a job?” My answer is always, “YES”! But then I follow that up with I can provide you with resources, tools, and job leads, but YOU have to go out and get the job. I help with resumes, cover letters, interviews, LinkedIN profiles, and anything else I can do to help them. It ultimately comes down to how much work the student is willing to do on their own. Students who take looking for a job seriously get the best jobs. Students who expect me to do the work for them, usually stay unemployed because they take no responsibility in the process.
Do you frequently come across any misconceptions about finding work after graduation that you’d like to put to rest?
Thompson: First and foremost, when looking for a job, you have to treat it like it is your job. In other words, finding a job, is a full time job.
Second, it is much easier to find a job when you already have a job. For some reason, people who are out of work come off as desperate, and this shows in interviews. If you have a job, you seem much more relaxed when job hunting and this shows in the interview.
My strongest point is: nobody is going to hand you your dream job! You have to go out and get it and the only way that will happen is by “working hard!” In the workforce, there is no such thing as “getting lucky”, however, you can create your own “good luck” by working hard. If you work hard, people notice, and then the “good luck” finds you, because you earned it by working hard. Along those same lines, you have to start entry level, and IF you work hard, then you can move up in an industry and company. If you constantly get passed up on promotions, if you never get a raise, it may not be the [boss’s] fault. Most likely, it is your fault, and your (bad) work habits are the reason you get passed up on promotions and raises.
Gill Thompson has been working with PTC students for years getting them jobs in their chosen fields. The best thing you can do when you’re studying your craft there is give him a visit to talk about your future after graduation.
In the Pickens Technical College’s Early Childhood Education program, students are given all of the resources they need to prepare for a long career in childcare and/or early childhood education. Instructor Kim Goode’s course is designed to put students in a position to work as a teacher’s assistant in a childcare center, preschool, or elementary school. Some of the concepts that Goode teaches to her students at PTC are taught to future teachers in education courses as well. Goode helps students get their feet in the doors of daycare and early education centers like Bright Horizons with the skills they need to hit the ground running.
Bright Horizons is a national company with daycare centers located here in the Denver area. The company is a top provider of preschools and early education to kids all over the country. They need accomplished employees with experience working with kids because of the great things they strive to help children with, like nurturing every child’s unique potential, helping support families and communities where they operate, building family-friendly workplaces with employers that need their services, and creating a work environment for themselves that is diverse and all-inclusive.
Bright Horizons has four childcare centers in the Denver area. These centers love to hire recent PTC graduates from Goode’s Early Childhood Education program because they know they are being trained well for a career in this field. It wouldn’t be a PTC course without some strong, hands-on training working with children. Students in the program participate in an internship at the Kids Tech Childcare Program, sponsored by the Aurora Public School District and Pickens Tech. This allows students to interact with children and build on their classroom instruction in a real work setting.
Since the Early Childhood Education program at PTC prepares students with real on-the-job training, Bright Horizons daycare centers throughout the Denver area are eager to put recent graduates of this program to the test at their facilities. Their experience is crucial to success in the childcare industry. Bright Horizons has seen success from many of the PTC graduates they have employed over the years. Being involved with Aurora Public Schools doesn’t hurt, either.
If you’re interested in braving the germs and working with young children, check out Kim Goode’s Early Childhood Education program. Not only will you learn the basic of how to care for children in a daycare and preschool setting, you’ll also learn how to protect yourself from those runny noses and booger hands as well—a very valuable skill indeed while you gain experience watching children.
At this year’s SkillsUSA Challenge , Motorcycle Service Technology student Colton Messer won a Gold Medal and a grand prize: a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle for Pickens Technical College’s Motorcycle Service Technology program. SkillsUSA pits students against each other in challenges of professional skill and scholastic achievement. There are many different kinds of challenges, including competitions for students trying to break into the auto industry. Messer’s performance in this year’s events brought home a new Harley Davidson and showed off all of the skills he learned in the Motorcycle Service Technology program at PTC, taught by the wise and experienced Tom Laing.
The Motorcycle Service Technology course at PTC is designed, like all PTC courses, to prepare students for a productive career. This course covers all of the basic elements of the motorcycle service and repair technology so students can go right from PTC to an entry-level position in the industry. Students like Messer learn vehicle system service and repair, engine overhaul instruction, troubleshooting, and diagnostic procedures, all steeped in a background of mechanical and electrical theory. Students can take their knowledge from this class and apply it to motorcycles of course, but also to many other mechanical and electronic work they may find themselves in.
Tom Laing, the instructor of the Motorcycle Service Technology course at PTC, (he’s not as old as I make him sound) has seventeen years’ experience teaching students how to enter the motorcycle repair industry and create successful career for themselves there. In his 16 years of experience in the industry, he has experienced all facets of operating an American and Metric motorcycle dealership, including extensive experience working as a line mechanic and service manager. He knows the motorcycle industry inside and out and prides himself on his knowledge of the bikes he sold and works on to this day. Laing is a certified technician who has worked for several American and Metric brands including Arctic Cat, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson (of course), Honda, and Yamaha. For ten years, he has helped students repair and build the best bikes. He has prepared many for lucrative careers in the motorcycle industry.
Colton Messer used his knowledge and the hands-on experience he gained in Tom Laing’s Motorcycle Service Technology class to take home a gold medal at the SkillsUSA challenge earlier this year. The brand new Harley will no-doubt help inspire a new wave of students in Laing’s class to be the best motorcycle mechanics they can by following Laing’s lead. Laing is of course extremely proud of Messer and all of his students for their achievements in and out of the classroom.
What you’ll get in the Motorcycle Service Technology program at PTC is a wide range of skills to help you in the next step in your career. And remember what Laing’s students always say: “motorcycles are way cooler than cars.”
Pickens Technical College is all about providing opportunities to students so they can enter the workforce with the skills, connections, and confidence they need to be successful in the long term. The PTC Brand Ambassador program recruits students to represent the PTC brand on social media and teaches students how to represent themselves. Denver marketing company Encite International is working with PTC to help teach students the importance of positive brand representation online and how to use that knowledge to protect their own personal brands so they can make a good impression online.
Staffed by volunteers from Encite to teach students the finer points of brand representation, including Encite President Adam O’Leary, the Brand Ambassador program is a useful way to help yourself get a job when you graduate from Pickens. You’ve heard by now from your instructors a thousand times that you should always have an eye on your career future so you’re ready for the next step. Graduation Day comes sooner than you think, and the more preparation you can do now to get yourself ready to enter the workforce, the higher on the employment ladder you’ll start when your days at Pickens are done.
Encite President Adam O’Leary explained some of principles he teaches in the class: “The #1 concern students should consider when they are interacting on social media is the way they present themselves. Social media is, of course, meant to be social, but the things they post can have long term consequences.” O’Leary also says that with 60% of employers now researching hiring candidates on Facebook “if there are posts riddled with profanities, bullying a peer or engaging in a fight, these do not present the person in a good light.”
O’Leary says that the lessons he teaches to students in the Pickens Brand Ambassador program “aren’t intended to stifle the individual’s voice, but to show them how to still engage, interact, and socialize with their social circle while still being themselves without sharing their challenges or issues that should be reserved for more personal/one-on-one conversations.” It’s all about the students and the way they choose to represent themselves and Pickens Tech. If you sign up for the Brand Ambassador program, you’ll learn how to not be that guy or girl who posts way too many personal status updates on Facebook. You’ll learn how to avoid scaring off friends and potential employers.
You already know how be yourself online. Sign up for the Brand Ambassador program at Pickens Tech to learn how to be yourself and still get a job after you graduate from Pickens by using your social media accounts smartly and sensibly. O’Leary himself has years of experience defining brands and creating smart, engaging brand identities and stories that attract customers. Attract employers by learning some of the skills that O’Leary knows at the Brand Ambassador program.
Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) is one of the many useful skills you can learn here at Pickens Technical College. If you’re like me, and you have no idea what that actually is, here’s a quick rundown of what you could be learning as a part of the Computer Aided Drafting and Design program at PTC:
- Architecture Drafting
- Mechanical Drafting
- AutoCAD, Solidworks and Revit
- 2D and 3D Printing
The Computer Aided Drafting and Design program prepares you to earn an AutoCAD certificate, which pretty much every CAD worker in the industry has as a prerequisite to employment. At the moment, PTC offers students in this program the option to earn the CAD Basic Employment Skills certificate and the Computer Aided Drafting and Design certificate. Those exciting certificates prepare you for long and prosperous careers in architectural drafting, mechanical, model building, and rendering.
Instructor Suzanne Payne prepares her students well for careers in engineering and helps them go on to the next level of education if they choose. She has sent many students into the job market to become gainfully employed. One of the most recent students to graduate from her program at PTC and move on to a good career was Tyler, who completed the CAD program and got a job at an engineering firm in Denver earning over $50,000 after two years in the industry. Another, Dan, graduated this spring and now earns $30,000 a year at a local engineering firm. She says that many of her students go on to the Community College of Aurora and the Community College of Denver and some go on to larger state schools like Metro State University, University of Colorado Denver and Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
The CAD course is “an excellent stepping stone into any engineering field.” Indeed, the course teaches students both architectural drafting and mechanical drafting skills using AutoCAD, Revit, and Solidworks 3D software, and 2D and 3D modeling printing. Payne says that “employers want entry level drafters to be proficient on the software and then they teach the employee their field of engineering.” Her class also fills a gap that many state universities have in their CAD curricula: technical software.
The bottom line is that the CAD course prepares students for careers in engineering and many other fields of work that require CAD skills, such as utilities, interior design, sign companies, kitchen layout design, estimators, and many more. This knowledge and skill set is in-demand for several industries, all with job openings in the Denver area and beyond. Payne also trains her students in the basics of how to get a job and prepare for further education, from resume workshops to interview practices. She also provides real world, service learning opportunities for her students as a part of the course. If you’re interested in learning how to be employed in a professional drafting career, sign up today.
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