Back to school in the Denver area means more than just fresh loose-leaf paper and sharpened pencils. Two new state-of-the-art facilities in the area are seeking to change the way that we approach education, from simply getting the grade to learning hands-on skills.
Both the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in Centennial and Arapahoe Community College’s Sturm Collaboration Campus in Castle Rock acknowledge the fact that there are many paths (beyond just a traditional 4-year degree) to a well-laid future.
Hands-on skills bolster the workforce, and a skilled workforce powers the economy. Here’s what these new schools are doing differently, and how it will help students and the local economy succeed.

Cherry Creek Innovation Campus

The Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC) is a 117,000 square-foot building that opened this fall for high school students in the Cherry Creek School District.
And, move over textbooks, it’s built with the “wow” factor. The facility includes a helicopter and two single-engine airplanes for students in the airplane maintenance track, for example.
Unlike many job training programs, the facility’s mission is to do more than just complement the district’s traditional high school programming. The program’s goal is to revolutionize the student experience in college and career preparedness. The facility is designed to offer work-based learning experiences for students to help them establish goals for life after high school.
Designed to be a bridge to college and viable careers alike, its curriculum is rooted in real-world skills.
CCIC is for students on every track: students who want to go to college, students who want to go right into the workforce or military after high school, and students who are unsure of what they want to do after high school. It offers pathways including advanced manufacturing, business services, health and wellness, hospitality and tourism, infrastructure engineering, IT & STEAM, and transportation.
Beyond career tracks, the program seeks to instill in students the confidence to take risks and make mistakes, fostering collaboration, innovation, and exploration.

Sturm Collaboration Campus

The Sturm Collaboration Campus, which opened in mid-August, is a joint venture between Arapahoe Community College (ACC), the town of Castle Rock, the Castle Rock Economic Development Council, Colorado State University, and the Douglas County School District.
The campus is also built with the “wow” factor in mind, including an anatomage table that allows nursing students to virtually dissect every part of a human body.
The goal of the facility is to enable students to transfer seamlessly between high school, the workforce, ACC, and Colorado State University. It is designed to train high school and college students, as well as residents in the workforce and those seeking work, with real-life skills for the workplace.
The Sturm Collaboration Campus is also for students with diverse goals, including those wanting to earn an associate degree, transfer to a 4-year school, complete a certification program, or join an apprenticeship program. Like CCIC, the Sturm Collaboration Campus aims to build students’ confidence for real-world opportunities.

The Sturm Collaboration Campus offers pathways in business, health, and technology. Students can complete any of the following at the campus: an accounting clerk certificate, a business AA, a cyber security AAS, a nurse aide certificate, a physical therapist assistant AAS, secure software AAS or an associate’s degree in art or science.
Denver has long fostered a healthy business climate, but still, it faces a workforce shortage. Now area schools are doing more to bridge the gap between employer needs and candidate skills. They are innovating how we approach education, changing it from a checklist of classes to a clear pathway to work.
And, the more of us that are working, the better for all of us.