Thanks to his coach and a life-changing program, one student learns how to turn his passion into a profession

When Andrew was a high school sophomore in Sandpoint, Idaho, a counselor told him about the PTECH program, explaining that he could have dual enrollment in high school and community college — meaning his associate’s degree would be paid for. When he learned one of the career pathways was information technology and website design, he was sold. 

Along with the PTECH educational track came Coach Hayley. “Andrew has put a ton of work and effort into figuring out his future job goals and forcing himself to network and learn the industry in a way that most high school and college students don’t do until their last semester, if at all,” says Hayley. 

Coaching — the ultimate game changer

One of their earliest conversations was whether Andrew should go to a statewide creative technology convention (way outside his comfort zone) or to an anime convention (something he had been looking forward to), both held on the same days. He talked it out with Hayley — exploring the pros and cons of each and talking about goals. In the end, he chose work over play, deciding to attend the programming event. 

“That conversation changed my life.” – Andrew, participant, Idaho PTECH

“That conversation with Hayley changed my life,” he says. At the convention, he went to panels, listened to industry experts and met people in different branches of the computer arts industry. “It really piqued my interest in the artistic side of computer technology,” he notes. From that convention, he was able to obtain an opportunity working on a Kickstarter project developing virtual reality games 

“Hayley was great at helping me with tips on scheduling — something I was really bad at. Between work, school, picking up my siblings and wanting to have downtime with my friends, I was always overbooked. Hayley showed me how to use a planner. Sounds simple, but it was like a lightbulb went on.” Andrew also credits Hayley with helping him with financial planning, tapping into available career services, and learning how to make industry connections using LinkedIn. “I didn’t even know what networking was,” he says with a grin. 

Onward and upward

Once he completed his foundational college credits through PTECH, Andrew continued his education at the University of Advancing Technology in Arizona. He’s currently in his final semester before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in game art and animation, specializing in character and environmental art. Andrew is also an art tutor at the school, helping other budding computer artists ply their craft. 

Once he completed his associate’s degree through PTECH, Andrew moved on to the University of Advanced Technology in Arizona. He graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Animation. From there, he did quality assurance and video game testing for Xbox Game Studios, then went to Blizzard Entertainment where he’s a contract video game tester working on Diablo Immortal and Hearthstone.

“My coach got me to think about what I wanted to do after high school and explore different options for college. Without Hayley, I wouldn’t have known what to do — or how to get there.” – Andrew, participant, Idaho PTECH

“When you come from a small town,” Andrew says, “there aren’t many opportunities to see and be exposed to things related to the career you want. But you can’t let that stop you.” He recommends using LinkedIn, Twitter and corporate websites to see what’s out there. “Find the online presence that speaks to you and connect to that community. Go to the ‘contact us’ page on a website and ask questions. Join a forum and learn more about your options. Get to know people in the industry. Don’t be afraid to reach out — you can talk to anyone and most people are willing to help.”

As for his connection with his coach? They still speak on a regular basis, even though Andrew’s PTECH days are well behind him. “She was great at asking the tough, out-of-the-box questions,” he said, “the things I never would have thought about. She got me to think about what I wanted to do after high school and explore different options for college. Without Hayley, I wouldn’t have known what to do — or how to get there.”

Working to close the opportunity gap

As the divide between rural and urban continues to widen — both in terms of job and population growth — it’s critical to give high school students a clear path to a career that provides them with a livable wage and the ability to remain in the area. By incorporating one-on-one coaching into a program’s support strategy, institutions, employers, and students all win. Students who may not have otherwise been considering college have a champion on their side — someone who helps them identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and develop successful time-management and academic habits — building a relationship that will motivate each student to reach their full potential. 

Through the use of coaching in the Idaho PTECH program, Andrew and other rural students were able to obtain the college degrees and workplace skills required for high-growth industries in their own backyard, helping to bridge the gap between education and industry. 

Together, we can help learners across the nation realize their potential.

Looking to learn more about how coaching supports learners to develop the knowledge, skills and beliefs to achieve their educational and career goals? Explore our holistic coaching solutions, learn more about our partnerships, and see how collaboration with purpose-led organizations helps us expand our impact.
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