Sunday, May 20, 2012

Charlotte Technical Center: Career in a Year

My 10-year old nephew just got back from his first overnight field trip--an outing to historic St. Augustine.   His favorite part of the trip was not Castillo de San Marcos or even Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, but staying up late in the hotel room he shared with three classmates watching the NBA finals.   It gave him a taste of independence and what the future might hold.   This week we took some of our students from the Adult Learning Center on a tour of Charlotte Technical Center where they got their own taste of what the future might hold.  It was an educational and inspiring break from their day-to-day studies.

Admissions director Barb McCaulkin started us off with some basic facts.  There was a lot of good news for our students.  We learned that 80% of the jobs in Charlotte County do not require a four year degree and that CTC works with businesses in our community to focus its programs on the areas where there are jobs.   We also learned that most of CTC's courses require only one year of school (hence the "career in a year" motto) and that the cost is generally "only" $3,000-$4,000.  CTC also has a job placement specialist who works with students to build  professional resumes and polish up their interviewing skills.  So far, so good.  Then we were hit with the bad news.  Pursuant to a change in federal law, prospective students must have a high school diploma or a GED AND test at required levels in math, reading, and language in order to gain admission to technical school programs.  This is a huge change and a setback for many of our students who have been working hard to bring their skills to the required testing levels.  But rest assured that starting in 2013, all grads of CTC--from cosmetologists to auto mechanics to website designers to chefs--will have a high school diploma.

Then we were off to check in on some of the programs. CTC's programs  are taught at a practical level, with lots of hands-on experience. Most of the programs offer services to the community at a reduced rate.   Students in the dental assistant program work on dummies and then "graduate" to working on each other and local elementary school students.  (We were reminded that dental hygienists don't do any drilling!)

The cosmetology students offer an entire range of services that I will definitely check out when school gets back in session in the fall.  Facials are only $20 and manicures are $8 (rivaling the prices at Korean nail salons in New York!)    I am also planning an outing in the fall to Papa G's, CTC's onsite restaurant for its culinary arts students.   Papa G's is open daily for lunch and on Thursday evenings.  On the day we were there, duck was on the menu, and Barb told us that she'd had a delicious lobster roll one day and that their oxtail was to die for.   All for $5!

Given the demographics in Charlotte County, there is a significant demand for people in medical professions.  CTC offers a variety of nursing programs, from certified nurse assistant to phlebotomy to practical nursing.  For students who aren't into blood and guts, there's a program for medical administrative specialists (basically data entry).  Barb shared a little tip on the best song to have in your head if you are administering chest compression CPR--"Staying Alive"!   The beat is perfect, and the mantra doesn't hurt either.

One of our last stops was the graphic design program, and I wanted to sign up on the spot.   (I think I will settle for a program at the Visual Arts Center instead since I probably won't end up making a career of it--lol.  There was a 49 year old woman there, though, who was starting a second career and she was quite pumped up!)  These students get to work all day with Photoshop and other computer programs to create lots of fun products, from posters to brochures to programs.   The posters for the NYC Marathon of course caught my eye.  Which one do you think would draw the most people in?

At the end of the day, our students had a better idea of what the next step might be after they graduate from our program.  It was a great way to show them in concrete terms where their hard work can lead.  And it was great for me and the other instructors to learn more about the programs as well so that we can better guide our students.  

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