One-on-one education a focus at Fort Collins’ Digital Workshop Center

Stu Crair jokes about being the training director at the Digital Workshop Center by day and the drummer for a couple Fort Collins bands by night.

Fortunately, running the private occupational school and playing in the bands, Dead Floyd and Musketeer Gripweed, involves some overlap, Crair said.

Just as Crair’s drumming sets a rhythm for his bandmates, his work overseeing the classes and certificate programs helps students at the Digital Workshop Center keep pace with the professional world in the digital age.

“You gotta be on your feet. You gotta be creative,” Crair said.

The Digital Workshop Center offers in-person and live online training for programs including Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud. Classes also are bundled into certificate programs such as digital marketing and project management. Crair said about 800 students registered with the school in 2018.

The vocational school began in 2006, when Crair taught out of a small, private office in his home. Today, the school has 14 instructors and three administrators, with locations in Fort Collins and Denver. The Fort Collins location, at 324 Remington, Suite 110, offers a 24/7 coworking space. Students can use the coworking space free on class days.

Despite the school’s hundreds of students across the U.S., Crair uses those early days in his home office as a model for the one-on-one attention he wants instructors and administrators to give students. That devotion to personal attention inspired Crair to leave the community college circuit and start the Digital Workshop Center.

The school’s online training is always live, Crair said. In-person or online, instructors are available to help individual students as needed. The instructors use the skills they teach daily, he added.

Just as music can change people’s lives in unexpected ways, the Digital Workshop Center has helped many people find employment despite personal challenges. Its customized education model helps bring employable skills to people with disabilities. In traditional education programs, those students might struggle with accessibility issues or impersonal care. As a result, the Digital Workshop Center now works closely with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

A part of the personalized instruction includes rolling enrollment, so those who are interested can get started at any time. Staff can also meet with students to help identify any skill gaps to make the most of students’ time. For students who have a background in marketing, but left the field due to injury, family or other personal reasons, that model can be a huge time saver.

“Let’s figure out what you need, not just throw you into a program where you’re not going to use half the stuff,” Crair said.

And that tailored educational experience delivers results, according to Crair. A 2017 poll of students who started with the school while unemployed showed 83 percent of them went on to employment, he said.

The school started with a greater focus on delivering business-to-business services. It grew to help people of any ability develop the digital skills they need to launch or shape a career. Classes start from as simple as Computer 101 and reach advanced topics including Project Management Institute exam prep.

Crair said the Digital Workshop Center’s growth over the past 12-plus years has been a little free-form. That improvisation helped make the school so adaptable and relevant in the ever-changing digital world, he added. Traditional educational programs by comparison often struggle to adapt. Where it might take a university two years to develop a curriculum ­– which could be stale by then – the Digital Workshop Center can push something through in a few months.

“I think people need this. They need to know how to do these things,” Crair said. “It’s very evident we’re in a digital world and only getting more digital.”

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