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Career and Technical Education: Building professional skills for the 21st century

Part six of a series focusing on how Cherry Creek Schools is meeting the needs of all children.

CTE student Evan Reilley

​Any engineer working in the 21st-century job market has to draw on a set of skills that goes far beyond a basic knowledge of math and science.

Evan Reilley, a senior at Overland High School, had built up his core knowledge in demanding STEM classes throughout his high school career, but it took an internship at the Rimkus Consulting Group branch office in Denver in 2016 to build an equally vital brand of expertise. Reilley gained important lessons that could have a powerful impact on his future career, practical and immediate experience that ranged from filling out an invoice to building a firsthand rapport with clients.

“I learned a lot that I didn’t realize I didn’t know,” said Reilley, who spent ten weeks working directly with the Rimkus crew of consulting engineers. “I learned a lot more about what the real necessary skills are once you get into industry. It’s about communicating well, it’s about doing what a client needs me to do, reading and extracting data quickly and getting to the point.”

Reilley found the semester-long position at Rimkus through the Cherry Creek School District’s Career and Technical Education department’s Executive Internship Program, which offers students experience in professional settings across a wide range of industries. For Reilley, who has several family members in the engineering field, the internship at Rimkus revealed the diversity and breadth of the trade.

The Houston-based Rimkus Consulting Group draws on a wide range of engineering disciplines in its everyday work with clients looking for professional opinions regarding accidents, property damage and other incidents with real-world implications. According to Eric Riegel, district manager at the Denver branch, the company’s work offers a combination of field work, analysis and detective work rooted soundly in science and engineering. Reilley, only the second intern to work in the office, had the opportunity to work on all kinds of cases. He took part in field work, data collection and pattern analysis.

“Our goal coming in was to let him see all types of engineering, whether it’s electrical, mechanical, civil or aeronautical,” Riegel said. “Part of what we’re asking from him is feedback so that we can improve our program. We want to know what he liked, what he didn’t like. We want to get better, too.”

In addition to the work tied directly to STEM, Reilley had the chance to hone what were once considered “soft skills.” The ability to communicate, to problem solve and analyze data in a rapid and thorough fashion are no longer afterthoughts. In a professional landscape that’s constantly evolving, these are the keys to keeping up with the latest innovations in any industry.

Thanks to his time at Rimkus and his participation in the district’s Professional Internship Program, Reilly already has an edge when it comes to adjusting to the demands of the modern workforce.

“It’s definitely valuable as a high school student who’s about to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for college,” Reilley said. “It gives me a massive head start.”

Posted 3/23/2017 4:18 PM
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