Of all the glamorous, sexy industries you could find yourself in, horticulture and landscaping probably isn’t high on your list. But at Pickens Technical College, the Urban Horticulture and Landscape Program is the doorway to a wide array of possibilities and employment options for students. With many green spaces and parks throughout the Denver area, opportunities exist for those with experience growing plants and cultivating crops. The Denver Park Service is interested in protecting their many city parks and studying how different plants grow in city environments. If the lives of plants are interesting to you, join the Urban Horticulture and Landscape Program at PTC and learn about the many possibilities for careers in this field.
Simply put, horticulture is the study of how plants grow. Farmers are, almost by definition, horticulture experts. But PTC’s horticulture program isn’t a preparatory course on how to start your own farm, it prepares students primarily for employment in landscaping, greenhouse management, irrigation, nursery management, and interior plantscaping. The instructor preparing students for lucrative careers in urban horticulture jobs is Bill Cary, a 41-year veteran in the urban horticulture industry and a teacher for the past 25 years. In short, Cary knows how to prepare students for their next chapter in their lives in the field of horticulture.
Cary’s instruction covers the basics of horticulture and how to run a business based on a nursery or greenhouse. What is particularly exciting about the field of horticulture is the influx of new ideas of urban horticulture spreading around the world. Cities are starting to see more community gardens and shared spaces where people can grow their own crops in a dense urban environment. Greenhouses are benefitting from new growing techniques and ways to conserve water for irrigation. You can get your foot in the door of this growing (get it? Growing?) and exciting field by taking Cary’s horticulture course at PTC.
I know what you’re thinking. How many local companies are there really who hire PTC students fresh out of the Urban Horticulture program? The truth is, there are plenty such companies looking for skilled landscapers, interior plant designers, greenhouse tenders, and willing nursery workers. Students coming out of the PTC Horticulture program are prepared for these jobs and many have latched on with both hands. One good example is student Veronika Tucker, who completed Bill Cary’s Horticulture course at PTC and now works for a local Denver landscape maintenance firm. Tucker earned her job not because she’s a smooth talker, but because she learned how to work in landscape management from the hands-on experience she received at PTC.
PTC prides itself in giving all students the best possible chance to get jobs after they graduate. That’s why all of the courses are geared toward learning in the field and practicing outside of the classroom. You can only learn so much from watching videos and listening to an instructor talk, even one as knowledgeable as Bill Cary. The Urban Horticulture program at PTC challenges students to get their hands literally dirty and learn from experience.
Microtek is a local Denver-area business providing tool kits and other materials for use in tech classes in the area. The business is now offering its tools to Pickens Technical College students in the Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program for discount prices. Microtek’s leadership made a deal with PTC HVAC instructor Wayne Blackwell to help students get the materials they need to earn their HVAC technician certifications and serve a community that needs HVAC. (The high for yesterday was 93 degrees, people, and remember that one December when the temperature didn’t rise into double digits for about a week?)
The HVAC department at PTC is geared towards two main objectives: getting students as much hands-on experience as possible, and getting students prepared to take and pass the HVAC technician licensing exam. In order to accomplish these objectives for students, PTC provides tools and other materials for the students to practice their newfound skill with. He reached out to Microtek to see if the company could provide training tool kits to his students at a low price. Microtek agreed, and now all HVAC students at PTC have what they need to start servicing heating and cooling systems.
With this new partnership, students can acquire tools at a better price which helps them reach their goals. Blackwell’s students’ time is precious and it’s up to him to help them get as much as possible out of their classroom experience and their hands-on practicing experience as possible. Working as an HVAC technician is not an easy profession. It’s even more difficult if the equipment you’re using is less-than-standard. If you’re using faulty or worn equipment to learn how to fix an air conditioning unit, you won’t know how to properly fix one when you start your career as an HVAC technician. Microtek is happy to help Blackwell’s students be the best they can be.
These days, most HVAC technicians have to earn their Environmental Protection Agency certification. This is because federal law requires all HVAC technicians working with ozone compounds found in AC devices be certified to properly dispose of and handle them. Although these dangerous compounds are being found in fewer and fewer devices, not having EPA certification can be a detriment in a technician’s career. Blackwell ensures that his students are well-prepared to handle refrigerants and gain EPA certifications so they can help customers no matter what kind of AC units they have. Colorado HVAC technicians also have an option to earn Industry Competency Exam (ICE) certification to work in the state and Pickens’ courses prepare students to pass these tests as well. Now with the help of Microtek providing top-notch tool kits to his students.
In addition, PTC students are allowed to intern with Aurora public schools Master Technicians to learn directly from people in the field while Anschutz University and Cherry Creek Schools have paid internship programs as well. Such a great benefit to the students!
Pickens Technical College is well-known in Colorado for giving all students in all of its programs the finest, career-based education around. Students are expected to learn quickly and do excellent work when they graduate from Pickens Tech, and there are many success stories of students coming out of PTC to start distinguished careers in all kinds of fields. In the Health Occupations Department, which includes the Dental Assisting Program, Personal Trainer Program, Medical Assistant and Medical Insurance Billing Specialist Programs, Nurse Aide Program, Pharmacy Technician, Practical Nursing, and Respiratory Care Program (PTC has many health occupations programs, as you can see), students are expected to better their community with the skills they acquire.
The healthcare sector in the United States, especially in Colorado, is expanding rapidly. More people are going to the doctor after the Affordable Care Act passed, allowing healthcare access to millions of people who hadn’t had it before. PTC, ever on the cutting edge of expanding job markets around the country and the world, is focused on getting students ready for careers supporting hospitals and other health centers locally and elsewhere. What I’m getting around to (after about 200 words), is that all of the many health occupations programs at PTC challenge their students in many ways so that they are prepared for the rigors of working in the healthcare system. Obviously, instructors like Kelly Pruett challenge their students in the classroom and the lab, but thanks to the support of PTC Executive Director Teina McConnell, health students at PTC are challenged in another way as well: by competing in HOSA Colorado State and International competitive events.
HOSA is a health occupation professional organization that hosts competitions for new and aspiring health professionals all over the country. Recently, PTC sent some of its students to compete in events such as Medical Photography, Creative Problem Solving, and Medical or Dental Terminology. All of these events are designed to test the skills of the students with a system designed specifically to motivate and test HOSA participants’ competencies. The HOSA competitions have state and national levels. In the latest competition in Colorado, PTC students cleaned up. They won 21 medals overall and sent 16 students to the national competitions in Nashville, Tennesse.
HOSA Competition Events are fun ways for health occupations students from across the country to test their skills in competition with each other. Winning medals for your school and your team is a great confidence builder, and the tests and competitions created by the experienced health professionals and instructors of HOSA is a great way to see if students are truly ready for the professional world. PTC students train hard for these events and it shows in competition.
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