Community College Tech Workshops Match Students with Potential Careers

Aims Community College introduces students to career options that may line up with their passions.

by Tommy Simmons, Greeley Tribune, Colo. / February 21, 2017
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(TNS) — When 15-year-old Everett Lewark showed up at Aims Community College on Monday morning, his class was canceled. The home-schooled sophomore takes computer programing courses at the school from time to time, but rather than take the day off, he decided to attend the school's TechFest instead.

TechFest, a series of hands-on workshops aimed at Weld and Larimer county high school students, was designed to expose students to jobs in the programming and technology fields. It is the result of collaboration between Aims and Loveland CreatorSpace, a community workshop that offers residents access to everything from computers to metal shop equipment.

The goal, said Ellen Swieter, chairwoman of the school's business and computer information systems programs, is to help students dream big.

"Today's high school kids don't realize they can take something they love and doing it can be a career," she said. "I think they don't realize how much technology is here and that they can have a lot of fun here."

Swieter said this is the first year the school has held the event. Aims sent out invitations to 40 high school students in the area. She estimates between 20 and 30 attended the event.

For Lewark, the day yielded a new experience almost immediately. He's been teaching himself to program for about seven years, and he's designed video games before, but he's never used GameMaker, which is one of the programs students learned about at TechFest. The class walked students through the process of designing a simple, two-dimensional game that pits a spaceship against a field of oncoming asteroids.

"We need more education to get career choices out there kids didn't know existed," said Laura Cuthbert, who owns Loveland CreatorSpace, and whose son, 16-year-old Jason, taught the GameMaker class. "We try to give people the chance to try out different careers."

Lewark said even though he has been designing games for years, he guessed there were people in the class who were just starting out. Those are the people Swieter and Cuthbert want to reach.

Cuthbert estimated that on average today's high school students will hold about 20 different jobs in their lifetime -- a major shift from the days when almost everyone picked a company and worked there for decades, she said. Yet when young people are asked about what careers they are interested in, most are apt to list the same five or six.

Aims is trying to broaden its students' horizons as well, Swieter said. This fall, the school will unveil its new cyber security program, which will prepare students for a career spent protecting private companies and the government from hackers and viruses. It's another example of how they are working to turn students' passions into careers.

"You can have a career doing what you love," she said.

©2017 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.