ALEX BREAULT, DIRECTOR OF WORK BASED LEARNING
Collier County Public Schools (CCPS), Greater Naples Chamber, StickBoy, and Emerge SWFL recently collaborated to host an interactive and innovative virtual expo for Collier County high school students interested in technology. This expo focused on igniting student interest in careers within the technology industry. Students in the CCPS NAF Academies, heard from a wide variety of tech experts while having the ability to build professional connections.
NAF Academies are small career themed learning communities within current school structures focused on preparing students for college and career success. At Tech Horizons over 100 students in the NAF Academies virtually navigated through 20 speaker tables to converse with industry professionals to not only learn about careers but also deepen their understanding of education, training, and aptitudes needed to be successful in this industry.
Adriana Flores, teacher at Palmetto Ridge High School, stated “The event was a resounding success! Watching the students engage with the speakers and ask questions was such a rewarding experience. Technology continues to be such an asset for the students especially in the times we are dealing with now.”
The Chamber's mission of creating a stronger economy in Collier County involves cultivating a viable workforce within our community. Through Tech Horizons the Chamber set an initiative to broaden student knowledge of technology careers in their community in hopes of retaining talent for local employers. Angelisa Maccou, student at Palmetto Ridge High School, seemed to experience just that. Maccou stated “ It was a positive experience overall, I got to hear a few positions in tech I never considered and learned how my interest in animation could be applied multiple ways in technology and in different companies.”
Tech Horizons incorporated Collier County Public Schools' initiatives by highlighting and supporting their specialties within the technology field. Cari Jones from Elephant Creator and event speaker reflected on her high school experience saying “There are classes and skills being taught at CCPS schools that were not offered when I was in high school. Those classes and events like this give students an advantage in the field and give us employers a peek at where the interest and skills of the next generation are headed."
The importance and impact of Tech Horizons was echoed by Courtney Stahlman, Manager in Career and Technical Education at CCPS. “This year has proven to be a challenge in many ways and work-based learning is no exception. Coming up with innovative ideas on how we can expose students to work-based learning experiences was a must to keep students engaged and informed. We are very excited to bring Tech Horizon’s to students through a virtual means so that they can interact with local technology and design professionals while gaining further insight into not only career pathways, but local opportunities right here in Collier County.”
After unprecedented rates of unemployment throughout the pandemic and transitions to virtual platforms for work, school, and even medical consultations technology has proven to be the new frontier in most aspects of modern day life. “Now is the time to educate students about the types of jobs that will be in high demand 5, 10 or 15 years from now.” expressed Jordan Azis, Founder of Emerge SWFL and Technology Advisor at Stickboy. “Tech Horizons is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to emerging technologies and get them excited about a career in tech.”
Thank you to the following professionals for volunteering your time to engage and inspire students:
Alex Allen, Two39 Group; Jordan Azis, Emerge SWFL; Andy Beights, Beights Tech; Eric Bocock, North Collier Fire; Maribel
De Armas, CCPS; Jigsha Desai, USA TODAY NETWORK; Derek Dyer, GovernmentCIO; Connor Firmender, Endevr; Cari Jones, Elephant Creative; Sanjay Saggere, Collier County Government; David Shapiro, Barron Collier Companies; Ryan Sheehy, Sheehy Strategies; Evgeniya Simmons, Virtual and Augmented Reality of SWFL; Jared Stresen-Reuter, Divine Digital Agency; Zarela Velasquez, Politech; Christian Wartchow, CyberSecure IT Solutions; Mark Yorba, Arthrex; Josh Zachritz, Stickboy; Eric Zimmerman, Supervisor of Elections for Collier County.
For professionals who are interested in engaging with career readiness, contact Alex Breault at the Greater Naples Chamber to learn more. In her role, Breault connects high school and college students to employers through work-based learning experiences. She serves as a resource to students and employers to help nurture future talent from our schools and technical training institutions. This work is possible through generous funders such as the Naples Children Education Foundation.