Sandburg’s Summer Youth Camps Open Doors to Career Fields

  Aaron Frey
  Monday, August 20, 2018 4:35 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Norman Oeth III had been busy building robots during his summer vacation, but a broken finger put a two-week halt to that hobby. In search of something for him to do while his finger healed, Norman’s mother signed him up for the Youth Coding Camps at Carl Sandburg College.

“It’s challenging. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s something you remember,” said Norman, 13, of Monmouth.

The two weeks of Coding Camps were among several new offerings this summer from Sandburg’s Corporate and Leisure College that gave area youth opportunities to explore a variety of exciting career fields. In addition to the Coding Camps, the College hosted a Manufacturing Camp (which Norman also attended) that focused on machining and industrial businesses as well as a Scrubs Academy that centered on careers in health care.

The goal for each? Help young students get an idea for what they like (or even don’t like) as they approach high school and college.

“It’s never too young to start exploring what career options exist out there,” Corporate and Leisure College director Stacey Rucker said. “Enrolling in our different camps gives them opportunities to explore the different fields. It gives them a taste of the career fields that exist.”

The first week of the Coding Camp saw students of all experience levels learn the basics of programming through a series of web projects and challenges. The second week included learning to code Sphero SPRK+ robots to guide them through mazes and perform other tasks.

It’s an area that’s expanding — and lucrative. The median annual pay for computer programmers in May 2017 was $82,240 (more than double the national average), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sandburg offers several certificate and degree programs in the technical field, including CISCO network associate, computer support associate, computer technician and IT LAN & security specialist.

The Scrubs Academy featured tours of Galesburg Cottage Hospital, OSF St. Mary Medical Center and a Galesburg Hospitals’ Ambulance Service ambulance as well as several hands-on activities. Camp-goers learned about empathy through a wheelchair exercise and even had a chance to do a lung decompression using pig lungs.

“When you think of medical, you might just think of a nurse,” Rucker said. “Well, there’s so many more different opportunities that exist besides just nursing. There’s radiology, phlebotomist, the list goes on and on.”

Health care is the third-largest employment industry in the state’s West Central Economic Development Region, and the number of jobs in the field is projected to continue to grow. Sandburg offers a wide variety of health education programs, such as dental hygiene, medical assisting, nursing, practical nursing, EMS-paramedic, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The College also has new certificate programs for phlebotomy technician and healthcare assistant that were introduced this semester.

The Manufacturing Camp, which was funded through a grant from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Foundation, included visits to Galesburg companies like Pegasus Manufacturing and Heat and Control.

“I’m thinking about being an engineer when I get older. I wanted to see what it would be like and how much money you’d get,” Manufacturing Camp attendee Rachel Purlee of Alexis said. “It’s really interesting seeing how everything works and what they do here.”

There’s a demand for labor, too, as skilled workers are needed to replace those who are retiring. A July 2017 study from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found there were more than 4.5 million good-paying (at least $35,000 for those under 45 and $45,000 for those 45 and older) manufacturing jobs that didn’t require a bachelor’s degree. Manufacturing programs offered at Sandburg include welding, computer numeric control (CNC) operator, CNC programmer, pipe welder specialist and industrial welding technology.

The Manufacturing Camp also showed how the industry is advancing with technology. Sandburg CNC instructor Cory Silber taught students how CNC machines use programming to cut, shape and convert raw materials into new forms to be used for parts. Students even got to take home a piece of stainless steel that started as a rectangle and was transformed by a CNC machine into a Batman logo.

“They love to work with their hands, to be creative, to take it from their mind and hold it in their hand. That’s exciting to them,” Silber said. “What this does is gives them that opportunity to look at skilled trade as a potential for their future occupation, and it’s not necessarily a four-year college that they would have to go to.”  


Manufacturing camp CNC demo

Rachel Purlee of Alexis adjusts a setting on a CNC machine with the assistance of Carl Sandburg College instructor Cory Silber during the College’s inaugural Manufacturing Camp in July.


Scrubs Academy pig lung

Fern Andrade gets set to do a decompression of a pig lung with assistance from Galesburg Cottage Hospital’s Mindi Ragon in July during Carl Sandburg College’s inaugural Scrubs Academy. The camp was one of several offered this summer by Sandburg’s Corporate and Leisure College that allowed area youth to explore different career fields.

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Aaron Frey