Career College Field Trip
In October, Career College Central published an article “What’s At Risk?” regarding the pending gainful employment legislation. The article, more of a subset of individual testimonials, highlighted hundreds of current and former career college students and their success stories. The stories ranged from inspirational to heart breaking and everything between. Their backgrounds spanned broken homes to abusive relationships, traditional college grads hoping for a leg up in a tough economy to experienced professionals seeking an additional marketable skill; each were as unique and dynamic as the individual telling the story.
Being Affiliate Marketing Specialists, we work on a daily basis to help prospective students find the right information and get in touch with the right school for them. Our hundreds of clients want interested potential students to contact them, but only if they’re a match. That’s where we bridge the gap. It’s up to us to know as much as possible about the schools we represent and the students that are interested. We’re in regular contact with both sides indirectly, but the truth is, few of us really know about what goes on once the “prospective student” becomes the “student”.
In our regular morning meeting, we found ourselves discussing some of the stories published in “What’s At Risk?”. We shared our favorites and gave our own insight, but the fact still remained that many of us had never even been to a career college campus. In the midst of it all, our very own Bailee Platt had a great idea – “We should set up a trip to go check out PCI”. Bailee is an exception to the rule; she is about 9 months shy of finishing up her Associates in Occupational Studies at Pinnacle Career Institute (PCI) and has thus spent plenty of time on a career college campus. It made sense, so Bailee got in touch with Monte Schaich, the PCI South Kansas City Campus Director and set up a field trip.
On a Wednesday morning in early November, we left our office complex in Lenexa, Kansas and drove about 20 minutes east to PCI located in… another office complex. It seemed odd from the outside, students taking classes in a setting a lot like where we work, but once we got inside, it was like college again – with a twist. The corporate atmosphere served as what seemed to be a more efficient Student Union. Students, faculty and even some who worked for adjacent businesses all shared a common space and not a single one of them seemed to mind the least.
We met up with Monte and our tour began. Monte must have known every person in that building on a first name basis. Everyone we walked by, Monte greeted with a handshake and introduced to us. I went to a traditional 4-year university and I’ve never seen that kind of enthusiasm walking the halls, it was truly amazing.
They did it right at PCI. They had all of the bases covered. When students first start, they take a picture of them in their cap and gown for display in the main lobby as a reminder of what they’re working for. Recent graduating classes and winners of awards like Perfect Attendance are honored with pictures and plaques hung throughout the campus. Staff and the contributing community are recognized on the walls as well.
School is expensive and Monte explained to us that they empathize with that very much at PCI. They’ve given out gas cards and set up car pools for students struggling to afford the commute. A job board and PCI’s career placement services provide a wealth of opportunity for recent and upcoming graduates, but they also look out for those who are in need of employment to pay the bills while in school. Local employers look to PCI students and offer flexible full and part-time job opportunities because they’ve seen the quality the school produces.
People may be confused at first thought of career colleges. For-profit schools are a business and can be mistakenly lumped in with the likes of a money hungry corporate conglomerate, but the truth is, the fact that they are a business has proven to be an advantage of sorts. Career colleges offer a product in the form of education and if they don’t offer the best product possible, they won’t make sales and therefore will cease to exist. For this reason, schools like PCI know that it is important to see students through from start to finish and there are a couple of key ways they’re doing this. First, offer programs that train students to enter the workforce in fields of high demand. Second, show their students that they care, even when it may seem like nobody else does.
Of all of the people we met, facilities and amenities we toured, the one thing that probably stuck with me the most was a young man named Teddy. After the tour, we stopped for a final Q&A session on the second floor when a well-dressed young professional came walking up the stairs. Monte happily greeted him, shook his hand and told us that Teddy is a recent graduate – top of his class and student of the year! Teddy works in his field of study as a Medical Assistant and came back to see some of his old instructors and class mates. We could still see Teddy in the background giving hugs and shaking hands while people presumably told him how proud they were. You could almost see the inspiration some of his fellow students were gathering just by looking at him. I’m not aware of Teddy’s background, but I think it’s safe to say this was a true success story.
All in all, I really can’t convey how much we learned and saw while visiting PCI. It was definitely an eye opening experience and a lot of fun to learn about the impact our job has outside of the company. If you ever have the chance to tour a career college campus, I’d highly encourage it, I bet you’d be pleasantly surprised.