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Nicolet College - Career exploration, preparation and success are mainstays at Nicolet College


Career exploration, preparation
and success are mainstays at Nicolet College


July 20, 2011

While credit classes, degrees and diplomas are at the core of Nicolet College, students of all ages benefit from other activities aimed at long-term career and personal success.

“It’s all about providing the appropriate opportunities over a lifetime,” said Nicolet College President Elizabeth Burmaster. “It really is life-long learning that starts with career exploration activities for elementary and middle school students and continues through to any number of professional development opportunities for individuals looking to advance in their current careers.”

Career Exploration

To help young students explore different career paths, Nicolet offers a number of activities that start when students are in elementary school and continue through high school.

For many students, the journey begins with Nicolet’s College Camp. This week-long event held during the summer gives Northwoods 6th through 9th graders a chance to explore different careers. “The focus is on creating fun, hands-on activities that really engage the students,” said Susan Kordula, Nicolet director of Admissions and PK-16 Pathways. “Along with learning specific skills, students also get a feel for what it’s like on a college campus. For many, this is the first time they’ve ever visited a college, and it’s important that they leave with a positive impression.”

This summer marked the 18th year Nicolet has held the camp, which typically attracts nearly 200 Northwoods students annually. Classes have included Gateway to Engineering, Joining the Geek Squad Can be Cool, Painting Studio, Computer Programming, Culinary Arts, Welding, Rock and Roll 101, and many others.

Lego CampNew this summer at Nicolet was Lego Camp, a four-day event for youngsters in grades 1 through 6 designed to help them hone their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills by using special Lego kits.

Once in high school, the college offers students Career Discovery Days and Pre-College Academies. Career Discovery Days are designed to provide an overview of the many different academic programs Nicolet offers and links these programs to specific career fields. “They start seeing the academic pathway and skill sets necessary to enter different careers,” Kordula added. “What’s good about targeting this age group is that they still have a few years of high school left, so they can select the classes in high school that will prepare them for fields they may want to enter.”

The upcoming Pre-College Academies target 9th and 10th graders and are designed to expose students to specific career pathways and hone their academic skills in the fields of environmental science, health occupations, and engineering. The academies will take place on Saturdays over the course of several weeks.

For high school juniors and seniors, Nicolet offers half-day College Visit Days and several friendly competitions in the trades.

During College Visit Days, students visit Nicolet labs and classrooms and meet with Nicolet instructors and students from different academic areas. In each session they learn about the academic credentials necessary for a given career.

The trades competitions are held in the areas of automotive technology, welding and Carpentry Competitioncarpentry and involve all 11 of the high schools in the Nicolet district. The purpose, again, is to give students added exposure to career fields to help them decide if these fields are right for them.

Earning College Credit in High School

Getting a jump-start on college while still in high school has been a boon for many Northwoods students. Nicolet currently offers many ways for students to earn college credit while still in high school. These include articulation agreements, such as transcripted credit and advanced standing courses taught in the high schools, advanced placement testing, the Youth Options program where students enroll in on-campus Nicolet classes, and youth apprenticeships.

“What makes these programs attractive is that students do not have to pay for the college credits they earn while still in high school,” Kordula explained. “This reduces the cost of a college education and can shorten the amount of time students spend in college.”

Transitioning to the Workforce

As Nicolet students near graduation and right after they graduate, Nicolet offers another batch of services to help them transition from college to the workforce.

Internships have been a staple in education for years, translating skills students learn in the classroom to the workplace. This year, 50 students participated in internships through 10 programs: Accounting, Administrative Assistant, Business Management, Criminal Justice, Graphic Arts, Information Technology, Marketing, Culinary Arts, Barber Cosmetology, and Auto Technology.

Performing well in a job interview is a skill unto itself, as is preparing for the day when graduates sit down to meet with potential employers. Nicolet assists students in this process by conducting practice interviews and offering tips for improvement; offering free business attire donated by Nicolet staff; and holding on-campus job fairs that attract dozens of employers from throughout the region.

Professional Development

The education opportunities Nicolet provides do not end once a graduate gets a job. The college’s Workforce and Economic Development area works with dozens of employers every year to provide professional development and skills training workshops and seminars to professionals in the workforce.

“Everything we do is focused on advancing and upgrading peoples’ job skills,” said Sandy Bishop, director of Workforce Development. “The benefits of this are two-fold. Individuals benefit by getting the skills they need to enjoy greater professional success and local businesses benefit by getting the highly trained workforce they need to be competitive and successful.”

Nicolet provides workforce training in diverse areas including manufacturing and technical training, business management, quality and process improvement, workplace fundamentals, healthcare, emergency medical services, contractor training, leadership and personal effectiveness, protective services, safety and OSHA training, computer applications, and human resources.