There’s a saying around public speaking that it’s everyone’s worst fear and I fit that description to a T. I was nervous about presenting to the students at the Northland Caps program. I didn’t know what the Northland Caps program was at the time and I was nervous about speaking to students about a day in the life of a Web Developer. I was worried that my subject matter would be bland, that the students would be bored and wouldn’t really take in anything I had to say. I thought back to my experiences in high school and remembered when a presenter came in that no one really seemed to care or even paid attention to because they weren’t “cool". And now I had come full circle and was presenting to a classroom of high school students.
Thirty seconds after I walked into the room all the worry and fears had disappeared and I knew I was in the right place. Mr. Kelly, the teacher, and mentor to the Northland Caps students walked me through what their program was and how students came aboard the program and I was blown away. The Northland Caps association is a program for high school students to learn real-world business skills as well as real-world IT skills. The students that are in the program are there because they want to get a head start at furthering their careers, as well as getting real world training in a professional IT environment. The classical school day is turned on its head at Northland Caps. There are no tests or quizzes, there’s no homework, and no papers to write. The students at Northland Caps are put into teams and given a client from a local business and they are there to do one thing. Solve the client’s challenge(s) with IT solutions. This means meeting deadlines, communicating back and forth with the client, showing up on time, dressing professionally, and working as a team. Their final grade is based on how well they achieve this goal.
After giving my presentation, the students gave me a walkthrough of their client challenges they were facing, and then stepping me through some of the solutions they had come up with. I listened to the challenges they were facing and offered them my knowledge and experiences I had of working in a professional environment. I was blown away by the talent, ingenuity, and problem-solving skills these high school students had. I was caught off guard by how much in common their days were to mine. The students are learning coding skills in their free time. Outside of class, they are getting together to work on their projects. They are feeling the real world stresses of meeting a deadline and working as a team. By the time the students get out of the program they will have such a higher level of business and IT knowledge. They could be considered a professional candidate within just a couple years, even months of schooling.
After thanking Mr. Kelly for letting me come speak to the students I was headed out of the building and I had a thought to myself. I thought about the future of those students and felt a little more at ease with the younger generation that will soon be entering the workforce. I remembered all my trials and tribulations of getting to where I am today, and I imagined if I had started my Web Developer journey as young as they are. How far I would be along my career? The students that come out of the Northland Caps program are the future workforce and I felt honored to be working with them!
Written By: Carson Oldson