Career Center Provides Internship Style Classes to Help Students Get A Job

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Area Career Center has placed more than 30 students into jobs around Columbia over the past year. Its nursing program has seen an 80 to 90 percent employment of its students over the last three years.

The Career Center is a part of Columbia Public Schools and it offers classes to high school students and post secondary students. Program Coordinator Barbie Banks said its main focus is to provide career readiness programs for people in Columbia and develop programs that lead to jobs in the community.

"We would never develop a program that we haven't invested interest in the community and from economic development groups," said Banks. "We're not going to train a bunch for people for jobs that our not available in our community."

The center creates classes that mirror the workforce. Students participate in classes that provide hands-on experiences to the career in which they are interested. For instance, the career center has rooms set up like surgery rooms and hospital rooms so students can get a real-life experience there.

"These classes are designed to prepare people immediately for the work force once they leave the center and get a job," said Banks. "So if you had surgery in Columbia, you have probably had one of our students in there that was helping the doctor prepare the surgical room for the surgery."

The coordinator of the Surgical Tech Program, Jane Klick, said in the years 2011 and 2012, the Columbia Area Career Center graduated 19 students in the surgical tech program and now 14 of those students have jobs. In July 2012, 19 more surgical tech students graduated and nine of those students now have jobs.

"More jobs open in the fall," said Klick. "We expect to see an increase in those numbers soon."

Columbia Area Career Center offers two main programs for post secondary students: health care and trade industry

The health care program has mostly entry-level health care classes such as
• Licensing practical nurse
• Phlebotomist (the person who draws your blood and different bodily fluids)
• Medical coder (the person who works with insurance companies to code while you go to the doctor)
• Surgical Technologist (the person who prepares all the tools for a surgeon)
• Certified Nurses Assistants (people who work specifically in nursing homes and elder persons to make sure they are safe)

Trading and Industry Programs offer programs such as:
• Welding
• HVAC Repair
• Electrical

One student from the career center, Roger Lake, started in the Certified Nursing Assistant program and has been doing work in that field for about a year. He said he loved the experience he received with the program, so he decided to continue his education at the career center and enroll in the Licensing Practical Nurse program.

"At the career center they give you a lot of practical experience," said Lake. "I went to a state-funded university and I feel as though I have learned more things at this career center."

Lake said if it weren't for the hands on experience he received at the center, he probably would have lost interest in receiving all of his certifications. He said he feels as though he will have no problem finding a job once he finishes his registered nurse degree because of the hands on experience he has gained.

"The job placement here is a lot more higher than any college or university, in my opinion," said Lake.

Since 2008, the career center has seen a 134 percent increase in enrollment. The center plans to add two more classes for post secondary students in February, a culinary arts program and a massage therapist program.