Pickens Technical College creates opportunities for all students to learn a trade and start a career in the industry of their choice. Some students come from different corners of the world to get the training they need to improve their lives in a meaningful way with meaningful work. If you ask around any program or department at PTC, you’ll find plenty of stories from students who journeyed around the world to be here.
Practical Nursing Program Director Shannon M. Fries works with students from all over the world. She recently heard a story of a young man who jumped through an international obstacle course to land in a PTC classroom.
The nursing student is from Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. He entered a lottery to get a visa to live and work in the United States in 2011. Fries says “when he got here he landed in JFK airport to find that the person who was supposed to pick him up was not there. He did not have any family or close friends in this country so he called back to Cameroon and was able to arrange a place to stay in Virginia.” After a long bus ride, he found his living quarters and stayed there for a month. He had to borrow money to move to Colorado where a total stranger helped him get set up and established. Once there, the nursing student worked hard to obtain citizenship in the US and earn a nurse’s aide certificate.
Fries says that the student’s dream has always been to become a nurse: “His mother is a nurse in Cameroon and also operates a pharmacy so he would like to follow in her footsteps.” The dream is now within his reach in the Practical Nursing Program at PTC.
Fries is blown away by the effort of her instructors in the Nursing Program and the students’ ability to band together and help each other succeed. She says that what is perhaps most impressive about these students is “how caring [they] are toward their patients and their classmates. They work toward the goal of becoming a nurse with a singular focus and dedication that is admirable.”
PTC Practical Nursing instructors adapt their teaching styles to help their students, especially those who come from overseas. Fries says that they employ “a variety of teaching techniques and materials such as: written, verbal, video, hands on practice, demonstration, flipped classroom techniques, even things as simple as changing the configuration of the desks and the seating assignments to offer new perspectives and ideas…” She is always struck by the efforts of her instructors, too, who often stay late answering questions and offer practice time for many challenging techniques outside of classroom hours.
Instructors also encourage their students in the Practical Nursing program to speak to each other in their native languages to get and receive help understanding the lesson material. International students often form study groups and support each other in their learning. Fries says that “it is very rewarding to see them learning from each other as much if not more than they learn from us.”
No matter where you come from or how difficult it was to get into a PTC Practical Nursing classroom, you’ll have the support of your fellow students and the instructors, who will adapt to your needs so you get the training to pursue a career in nursing.
The hospitality and tourism industries are booming right now in Colorado, particularly in the Denver area. In the middle of that state-wide boom is Aurora, which, thanks to new development in recent years, is hosting many new residents as well as people visiting the area. Pickens Technical College is a part of the Aurora community, of course, and has for years worked to bring its students as close to the booming hospitality and tourism economy as possible so they can get the skills and the connections they need to pursue a successful career.
PTC’s Hospitality Program is split into two parts: Semester one is all about learning the theory behind the hospitality and tourism industry. This includes all the components that go into it, such as transportation, attractions, food and beverage, and accommodations. Reiser puts an emphasis on accommodations, particularly how hotels and all of their departments work. Semester two examines those hotel departments further with a leadership perspective, including how marketing theory fits within this context. The course’s capstone project is a marketing cooperative learning experience at a pre-approved site.
Kim Reiser teaches the class. Reiser has 19 years of experience at the high school, middle school, and community college levels as a business and marketing instructor. Her instruction approaches the hospitality and tourism industry from a strategic marketing angle, a refreshing perspective for anyone who’s sat through any of those awful training videos in which you learn how to greet a customer.
PTC has a unique partnership with the tourism and development group Visit Aurora, a consortium of local businesses with the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. Visit Aurora connects PTC students with internships and other opportunities on a regular basis. Reiser has gotten many of her students this semester into internships at several Visit Aurora partner hotels and other organizations connected with Visit Aurora. Via these connections, Reiser’s students are interning as you’re reading this (although it depends on what time of day you’re reading this) and getting front-line experience in the tourism and hospitality industry at Double Tree, Radisson, Mariott DIA, the Denver Aquarium, and more.
Reiser explained how she prepares her students for the real world with real experience:
My students are learning about Hospitality and Tourism and earning a certification from the [American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute] which requires that they complete 100 internship hours. We obtain those hours through guest speakers [such as]…Hotel General Managers, Human Resource Managers, and Parks and Recreation Directors, skill sessions at a local hotel, Double Tree Aurora, once a month in the evening, and industry tours [like] DIA [and] Union Station, and 30 – 40 hours on site independently.
Reiser’s students have found success in their burgeoning careers because of their on-the-job training and Reiser’s emphasis on marketing strategy. One student works at the Denver Aquarium, where she combines the skill and experience she acquired from two PTC programs: photography and hospitality, at the photo kiosk. Another works the front desk at a Town Place Suites near Park Meadows while she furthers her education at Metro State University. Still more of Reiser’s former students have found careers at DIA, fancy Las Vegas resorts, and local businesses.
The Hospitality program at PTC is designed to set up students for success in the tourism industry and creates opportunities for them to rise quickly in a hospitality organization with their knowledge of how these businesses work from the top down.
Pickens Technical College is constantly evolving to bring its students more options in vocational education. That’s a fancy way of saying that PTC is always looking for new ways to improve its classes for you. One of the more recent advancements in PTC’s technical courses is in the Advanced Manufacturing program. You might not recognize that official class title. It’s because it used to be known as the Computer-Aided Machining program.
The problem with the old program name was that instructor Michael Townsend and the PTC Advisory Committee wanted to offer students more training in skills they’ll need to be successful machinists. In an industry changing rapidly, Townsend saw an opportunity to expand his course’s studies to match the constant waves of new technology being introduced to machine shops everywhere.
The reason for the change is to reflect the rapidly changing way in how parts are produced. 3D printing, laser engraving, design, mold making, and casting are making the process quicker and more efficient.
The name change moved the program into more varied areas of expertise to match the shifting job market. As new technology is introduced, such as mold making, casting, and 3D printing, workers in the machining industry need new skills. Townsend took time out of his busy SkillsUSA schedule to say that “students will benefit from these changes by having additional directions to go when completing the program.”
Students get plenty of shop experience working with cutting edge technology to prepare them for a successful career. They also get the benefit of working with Townsend, an experienced instructor and manufacturing professional. Over his 30-year career in manufacturing, Townsend has worked in electronics, government programs, and spent almost two decades as an engineer and designer. In other words, if you sign up for his class, Townsend can get you the skills you’ll need for a long career.
The revamped Advanced Manufacturing course also gives students the chance to gain invaluable experience in the Job Shop course by designing and producing customer projects. With real-life experience on projects for real customers scheduled into the course, you’ll be prepared for the competitive job market upon graduation. One new focus of the Advanced Manufacturing course is Computer Numerical Control (CNC) equipment. Now a mainstay at many manufacturing and design companies, any entry-level job seeker in this market should know how to program and operate CNC equipment to get a foothold. Advanced Manufacturing at PTC ensures that you do.
Townsend believes that the changes in his course will provide more “engineering, design, prototyping, and entrepreneurship opportunities” for students, leading to better job placement rates. His classroom instruction, combined with a school-wide commitment to providing students with real experience opportunities and a renewed focus on new and emerging technologies, prepares students for a long and fulfilling career as a machinist. If you’re interested in entering this exciting and changing field, start with the new Advanced Manufacturing course at PTC.
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