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Teaching Computer Basics and Life Skills

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Eric Andrews might teach computer basics, but his love for his students and SCI is anything but basic.

Mr. Andrews is an instructor for Southern Careers Institute in Austin and online. Since 11 years old at computer camp, Eric has always loved computer education. But that is not really why he is here at SCI. Watch the video below and see the full interview below.

SCI: How did you get started in education?
EA: I kinda stumbled into it…I ended up taking a public speaking class when I was in college and…I really love being up here in front of people. And I didn’t want to be a politician, I didn’t want to be a lawyer. And so I was provided an opportunity when I got out of college to teach computers to people. And I’ve been a computer geek my whole life so it was an opportunity to get paid for talking about something that I love. And that was really sort of the genesis of it. And I never really sort of looked at it that way, but now it’s become just a part of who I am. I work in the field for a few years, gain knowledge in an area, and then I feel it’s just compelling to go back to the classroom and share that information.

[I] help others gain something that can’t be taken away from them: knowledge on how to improve their lives. And that’s key to me. I get a great sense of reward from that. Nothing that can be matched with compensation or anything else. [It’s] just that ability to give back.

SCI: So how long have you worked at SCI?
EA: I’ve been here 2 years. This is far and away the best company that I’ve ever worked for. I’ve worked in technological education and academic education for about 15 years. I’ve had the opportunity to work different places around the country, whether it’s corporate universities where I’m training people on how to use proprietary software or in education itself where I’m teaching a whole array of skills from business processes to accounting to technology. Whatever it takes for them to progress. [SCI] is a company that “gets it.” They’re here for the student. [The student is] here for those skills that they know are going to make them a good employee and a contributor for the community.

SCI: That’s awesome. Have you always been interested in computer basics and PC training?
EA: So, I went to computer camp when I was 11 years old and that was a long time ago. Computers have always been a passion of mine. And I’ve always found a way that there was informally or through a job to teach people about them. I know now, particularly in the job market today, those skills are just required. The way english and math skills were required always, computer skills are a part of any industry. I’ve had the privilege of teaching people who knew absolutely nothing about them. These are people who were maybe laying asphalt for the state, and all of a sudden their time-keeping system changed. And to simply punch and and out from work, these people were going to have to log into a computer, and use the software to punch in and out and they didn’t know anything! And now, you know it’s just sort of expected–whether you’re going into any sort of medical field, business accounting–that you be proficient with computers.

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, you need to know the technology.

You need to be versed in online learning, I mean that is what corporations expect these days. They need you to be able to go out and seek information yourself whether it’s through an educational program or a training that they do, but be familiar with that system.

I’ve always had a passion for [technology], I’ve always found a way to incorporate it into doing anything that I’m doing. So even if I’m teaching a basic accounting course, I’m going to incorporate Excel, I’m going to incorporate QuickBooks, and get them the exposure to the software they’re going to be using.

SCI: Why are you passionate about education or working at SCI or working with students?
EA: It’s the moment when you see it click for the student. You know that they “get” whatever it was that you were talking about. And when you’ve got a room full of people, and you see them sort of getting it at different times, you know you’re in that moment…you’re changing the way that they think. At the end of the day when they leave here, it’s not just the technical skills. It’s the critical thinking. It’s a way of looking at the world. And [there is] a confidence that they have now that they didn’t have before.

I always say if you leave here the same person that came in, we didn’t do our job.

And so, we want you to have not only those technical skills, but have a whole different approach to how you can be a member of society and contribute not just to yourself but to your family and the people around you.

SCI: What’s your favorite part of your job teaching basic computer skills?
EA: The student interaction. Every job has administrative tasks and things we all do that are just sort of part of a job, but when you see the impact of that on a student and you see their life change, there’s no equal to that. It’s just one of those rewards that compensation couldn’t possibly match in any way. To see them walk out of here a completely different person…to have them come back and talk with the other students that are on the other side and know that their life is on a completely different trajectory now. And the challenges that they had before are no longer challenges. They’ve got a whole new set of challenges, but that’s part of life. But they see the potential in themselves to keep going. And they now have the skills they need to cope with those things. And that’s where the critical thinking comes in…how to handle the situation, how to deal with people. Those are implied lessons that aren’t necessarily on the syllabus, but they make some of the biggest differences in how they go forward.

SCI: Seems like you’re teaching life skills as well as technology training! Do you have a favorite SCI student story that you’d like to share?
EA: Oh, I’ve got a half a dozen of them. They’re all rooted in the same idea…they want a change. They may not know exactly where they want to go, but they know they just don’t want to keep doing what they’re doing….There was one student–her name was Alexis–and in the beginning she really struggled particularly with computers.

She used to say. “Mr. Andrews, ugh, I’m never going to get this!” And she was just frustrated.

And I said, “Just keep working with this, let’s figure out where you’re having a challenge and let’s make sure we get you to understand that part.” And not just how to complete this task, but how to help yourself, right? How to find what you need if you come up with this challenge again in the future. By the time she got close to the end of her program, probably three months from the end, she was the one standing behind the other students helping them out. How to figure out what they needed to do in the software. How to cope with whatever they were [challenged] with. And I remember one day I said, “Alexis! Do you remember when you told me, ‘I’m never gonna get this!’?” [she said] ‘I know, I know, look at me now!'” And she not only excelled through the rest of her program, she came back in, tested for her national certification, and passed it on the first attempt. And she looks at the world in a totally different way now.

It’s not ‘I can’t do this.’ It’s ‘I can, and this is how.’

Those moments. If you ask any of [the students], I’ll say, ‘What would you say to the students who are coming in?’ and they say the same thing. They say ‘I’d tell them it was worth it.’ Everything that they went through. It’s worth it. And that’s why we do it.


Eric Andrews teaches computer basics and Business Accounting in Austin and Online. To learn more about our programs in technology, business, health, and skilled trades, sign up for more information.