Larry Moulis, Chief Technology Officer at Inova Solutions, talks to Monticello High School students in the company's software development office

More than 400 high and middle school students packed the auditorium at Piedmont Virginia Community College last week to hear about technology careers in the CharlottesvilleAlbemarle area.

The only problem was that Chuck Bohleke, Dean of Business, Math, and Technology at PVCC, said he didn’t know what those opportunities would be, because they haven’t been invented yet.

“That’s why it’s so important to stay involved and keep building your resume and to keep building your knowledge-base,” Bohleke encouraged the students. “Because the jobs of today are not the jobs of tomorrow.”

The students from across Central Virginia were on hand for the 10th annual Tech Tour, a program of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council which aims to expose students to career opportunities in the tech field.

“The Tech Tour is a signature CBIC event that advances our mission of education in support of Charlottesville’s technology community, helping to accelerate technology innovation and entrepreneurship in the region,” said Tracey Danner, CBIC’s Executive Director. 

Chris Engel, the city of Charlottesville’s Director of Economic Development, said many students think that they have to leave the area for school and jobs.

“We want to make it evident that if they want to return to Charlottesville they can,” Engel said. “There are cool companies here doing cool things with technology and we’d like to see [the students] come back.”

The day saw students from 25 schools participate in a morning engineering challenge, then visit over 70 companies, each group touring three technology businesses throughout the day.

The visits offered students a chance to see what technology area companies produce, how they use technology, and to ask questions of technology professionals.

Many think of tech careers as solitary work that’s done in front of a computer screen, but Larry Moulis, Chief Technology Officer at Inova Solutions, likened the company’s software design team to group work.

“In high school work sometimes you’re on a bad group, and sometimes you’re on a good group, and the question is how you can make it better,” Moulis said. “Our developers work together well and make a lot of software.”

What’s more, Moulis added, is that the collaborative, team-based Agile Software Development model Inova uses has been so productive that it has allowed them to keep their software developers in the United States.

The tour also showed students the many subfields that young people may not yet be aware of.

During a tour of Martha Jefferson Hospital’s Interventional Radiology Clinic, nurse Mark Newberry told students from Monticello High School’s Health and Medical Sciences Academy that there are many career choices in healthcare.

“In our practice you see a lot of doctors, nurses, and x-ray technicians,” Newberry said, “but there’s also the engineers who work on our equipment.”

Katina Dudley, Director of the Health and Medical Sciences Academy at MHS, said the field trip is a great benefit to her students.

“One of our biggest goals is exposure, so we really want the students to know what’s going on,” Dudley said, noting that area biotech leaders have reviewed HMSA curriculum and serve on the HMSA advisory board.

“They really help us understand what our kids need to know in order to be prepped for a career,” Dudley added.

HMSA sophomores Laura Habermeyer and Rana Abdel-Rahman said they enjoyed their visit to Martha Jefferson because it applied to their coursework.

The curriculum, Abdel-Rahman said, is case-based, and she liked the real-world examples of stint implants she saw.

“Last year we had guest speakers who had [radiology] ports, and then being able to see a port outside of someone’s body was really interesting,” Habermeyer. “To see what it really looks like.”

While both students said that they aren’t sure what field of medical sciences they’d like to pursue, the Tech Tour and HMSA has shown them the myriad options the field has to offer.

In addition to the tour, all students who have participated are eligible to apply for a $2,500 scholarship from CBIC in their junior or senior year of high school. Since 2003, CBIC has awarded $23,000 in scholarships.

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