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.
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