Last Thursday morning, CCV-Winooski teemed with Vermont’s next generation of healthcare workers. Dozens of teenagers from across the state were visiting for a Health Professions Access Day to explore careers in healthcare and learn about the education they might need to get started.

CCV Access Days bring more than 1,000 Vermont middle and high school students to CCV each year. Students attend mock classes, talk with faculty and staff, and get a feel for what college is all about. The events are also a doorway into a complete series of free opportunities for young students to get a jump start on college and career training at CCV. And this spring, the College began offering industry-specific Access Days to expose students to their options for pursuing high-wage, high-demand jobs after graduation.

Brad Holcomb talks with students about the field of respiratory therapy.

Brad Holcomb is the manager of respiratory care and the pulmonary function lab at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He participated in a “Career Café” at Thursday’s event, joining other UVMMC professionals to introduce various hospital careers. He says he and his team are working hard to recruit more workers into the field. There are good jobs available, with good wages and promising futures—but they’re struggling to fill those positions. “I love what I do. It’s rewarding work,” says Brad. He was excited to be at the Access Day to simply raise awareness. “I hope that [students] walk away with ‘now I know what a respiratory therapist is and does,’ and my hope is that some of them are interested in it and might choose it as a career path.”

Thursday’s event gathered students from Randolph Union High School and Randolph Technical Career Center, Center for Technology Essex, Green Mountain Technology and Career Center, South Burlington High School, Cold Hollow Career Center, and the Burlington School District’s Horizons program. Students participated in four CCV “classes”:

There was Chair Yoga in the Meditation Room, where students circled around a giant rug in a light-filled room to practice breathing, stretching, and paying attention to their bodies.

Students explored healthcare through a new lens with a Chair Yoga class.

There was the Career Café, hosted by Holcomb and other UVMMC professionals in respiratory therapy, nursing, radiology, and lab sciences. Respiratory therapists displayed lungs operated by a ventilator; nurses gave demonstrations in CPR and setting up IVs; and students could view real brain, liver, and lung tissue under a microscope.

There was an Anatomy & Physiology class, complete with an energetic CCV faculty member who gave a lesson on homeostasis of the cardiovascular system. Students measured their breathing rate and pulse—and talked about what happens to those metrics after 60 seconds of exercise.

There was a “CCV Info and Fun” class covering the full gamut of academic programs at CCV, accompanied by a bulging bag of Kit Kats for doling out to intrepid students.

And last but not least, there was pizza.

What happens to breathing rates and pulse after 60 seconds of exercise? And why?

“It’s been really cool to see what it’s like at college and learn about the different opportunities we have,” said Emma from Green Mountain Technical and Career Center. She’s already an LNA, but wants to continue her education after high school to become an RN.

Ruel from Randolph High School is definitely interested in a career in healthcare—maybe nursing, or maybe Emergency Medical Services. It was helpful, he said, “just to learn a little bit more about everything so it can help me further on.”

Madison from Randolph Technical Career Center isn’t interested in human healthcare—instead, she’s considering veterinarian school. But nonetheless, there was real value in learning about academic pathways. “There are definitely some things that correlate,” she said. “Not directly, but it’s still good to see the different places where I can go for classes to help me get where I want to go.”

Students had an opportunity to check out real brain, liver, and lung tissue.

For students, educators, and workforce recruiters alike, the day was a big success. Ben Gilliam is a restorative practice coordinator at Essex High School. He attended the Access Day with two juniors and a senior from the high school, and he was all smiles as he wandered through the Career Café. “I think it’s great,” he said. “All three [students] know that they’d like to do something in the health profession but they’re not sure what. So I think just getting that exposure outside of the classroom is kind of neat, and sort of being able to interact in this way is such a great opportunity, especially for the senior who really feels that she wants to be sure what it is she wants to do before she commits to a school after graduation.”

Photo credit: Jade Premont

To learn more about CCV’s full continuum of opportunities for Vermont high school students, visit

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