Like many in the startup world, Stu Crair saw an opportunity and seized upon it.
Crair, founder of Digital Workshop Center, was teaching adult education classes in Fort Collins when he noticed student satisfaction was low for tech-related classes and many were cancelling before their class was over.
“I realized that the (tech education) area was lacking a little bit,” he said. “That’s how (Digital Workshop Center) was born.”
He acknowledges his timing for founding the Digital Workshop Center – which specializes in helping students of all ages learn technical skills such as website design and management, Adobe software, digital photography and video editing, Microsoft Office and QuickBooks – was pretty good.
It was 2006, and the Digital Revolution was in full swing. Old business skills were being eclipsed by new digital skill demands.
“People were realizing that, and the pace of the digital world (transformation) was speeding up,” Crair recalled. “People were seeing there were skills they needed for a lot of careers.
“They’d been asked to do things that were probably outsourced to others and taking on those tasks because the software was getting more usable.”
Crair said his clientele breaks down into three basic groups.
“Demographically, we’re about 60 percent B2B,” he said. “They understand the value of training and the increased efficiency of that employee.”
Another 30 percent are the general public, he said – people who are pursuing a hobby or adding a skill.
The remaining 10 percent are the unemployed who are simply looking for skills to land a job, Crair said.
Students at Digital Workshop Center run the age gamut, but there are some similarities. “They’re mostly 45 and up in age, and about 70 percent are women,” he said.
“We’ve had people as young as 11 and as old as 85,” Crair said. “It really is a pretty wide range.”
B2B students are often administrators, human resources officers, IT specialists – even bankers and Colorado State University professors.
Government employees – city, county, state and federal — are probably his company’s biggest source of students, Crair noted.
The City of Fort Collins has been a “huge” customer for Digital Workshop Center, Crair said.
Doreen Kemp, the city’s learning and organizational development manager, said DWC has helped the city create more valuable employees.
“Digital Workshop Center has been exceptional in providing specific and customized technology skill development for the city’s workforce,” Kemp said.
“Employees who have attended a DWC course state they are equipped to apply their learning back on the job, using their technology skills to be more effective and efficient in their work.”
Other major clients include OtterBox, Vestas, New Belgium Brewing, Gallegos Sanitation, Brinkman Partners and Heath Construction.
The Digital Workshop Center specializes in hands-on, personalized training in small classes. Learning options include onsite classroom training, offsite classroom training, private instruction, lecture-style workshops and night and weekend courses to accommodate the spectrum of course demands.
Crair said online training has just begun through a collaboration with San Francisco-based Bloc.
Every student who takes a class at the Digital Workshop Center gets a month of technical support to make sure their new skills are working, and they make re-take the class without cost within a year after leaving the center.
Crair said he’s currently looking at a possible second center location in the north Denver area.
The center’s instructors are a diverse group – including local business people and retired tech workers.
“We try to pull from the community to involve local professionals,” he said. “Most have had at least 10 years of experience in their fields.”
Crair said he’s looking forward to many changes in 2015, including new classes in MailChimp, SEO, Photoshop and the new partnership with Bloc Bootcamp.
“I’m excited for the future,” he said. “There are so many new classes and programs we’re rolling out this year.”
Crair said the nine-year-old center near downtown Fort Collins remains innovative in several respects.
“We’re at the forefront of digital trends, and we are innovative in how we continually adapt to teach at all skill levels,” he said.
“We offer things that people really want the most and are in the highest demand. Our classes are about technical skills, but also about walking away with something that can help them create a product they can use. That’s what makes us innovative.”
[Originally posted in InnovatioNews on 2/2/15]