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Young crowd in Colorado Springs: Universities try to link students to businesses

By: suzanne evans, megan wood and Jesse Byrnes The Gazette
September 2, 2013 Updated: September 2, 2013 at 9:30 am
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photo - Jason Owens, a CC 05 graduate, is now working as the associate director of employer relations, Thursday, August 1, 2013. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.
Jason Owens, a CC 05 graduate, is now working as the associate director of employer relations, Thursday, August 1, 2013. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette. 

Colorado Springs is home to a private liberal arts college, a state university campus in the midst of a meteoric growth spurt and several technical schools.

The schools have the potential to boost the city's young professional population - provided their graduates want to stay in Colorado Springs.

"There hasn't been a concerted effort to take the students that are graduating, to try and integrate them into the local economy," said Mark Lautman, an "economic architect" from Albuquerque who started the not-for-profit Community Economics Lab and has been a consultant to the Colorado Springs business community.

"You have a very strong set of universities and higher educational institutions that are bringing new people into the region. It's just that they're all heading back out after they graduate."

Whether it's the schools' responsibility to keep their graduates in Colorado Springs is debatable, but the institutions are nevertheless trying to connect their students to the local business community through internships, fellowships and job opportunities.

"The college's goal is to educate its students and support them in whatever their post-graduation goals are, whether that be fellowships, graduate school or conducting research in a rainforest," Megan Nicklaus, the new career center director at Colorado College, said in an email.

But, she added: "The college also works closely with the local community, cultivating relationships with a variety of employers throughout Colorado Springs. We seek internships that benefit both the student and the community, and hope to continue to develop those opportunities for our students."

Jason Owens, who works in CC's career services office, said the school partners with Front Range organizations to host students in fellowships for a year after graduation. CC also offers a database for employers to post job listings that students and alumni can access online, he said.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs does a good job of keeping its engineering students in town because of internships with local companies, Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said. About 87 percent of the school's engineering students get a job after graduation without interviewing, she said.

Like CC and UCCS, Colorado Technical University offers a database where employers can post jobs and an Employer Relations Program that gives companies access to students.

"I think it's a matter of knowing where those opportunities are and plugging in," said Deanna Finch, 29, who works in career services at CTU while pursuing a master's degree in science management.

In addition to offering two-year associates degrees, Pikes Peak Community College offers vocational programs through its Career and Technical Education program. Rather than earning a degree, students receive certifications in specific industries. Many of these vocational degrees are tied to local companies, and the college works with the local manufacturing industry to tailor career and technical curriculum for community needs.

"I think that making those strong partnerships between colleges and community kind of ensures a solid foundation or stabilizes the job perspective for some of these young professionals," said Allison Swickard, executive director of marketing and communication at PPCC.

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2012-13 enrollment

CC: 2,000 students

UCCS: 10,000 students

CTU: 21,500 students (all CTU campuses)

PPCC: 22,000 students

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