Archive for the ‘Career Changers TV’ Category

Dev League Computer Coding Scholarships

April 9th, 2014
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While filming our segment about the first-ever Honolulu Mini Maker Faire at Iolani School last month, I heard about Dev League's coding boot camps and introductory programs for kids who have an interest in computers. We just had a brief mention of them in the piece that's running on the current episode of Career Changers TV, but that led to Russel Cheng calling me to talk more about what they're doing... and I'm glad he did, because it's directly related to many topics we've covered on my show.

We've done a number of stories about startups, business incubators and accelerator programs, which all have one thing in common: they need people with computer coding skills to set up websites, program software and create apps for smart devices. Yet there were no intensive hands-on training programs in Hawaii to teach coding in a concentrated time span, according to Russel, until they launched Dev League's boot camps a few short months ago. He believes graduates who complete their 12-week course will have a good chance of receiving high-paying job offers from big companies that he and his partner, Jason Sewell, are working with -- and that's the key to justifying their price tag of $10,000 per student for the program.

It sounds like a lot of money... and it is, but if you compare it to college costs for courses and degrees that may not lead directly to any kind of employment in that field, it seems like a much better deal for anyone who wants a career in high tech. What's more, if coming up with the tuition is a challenge, you may be able to qualify for a scholarship or financial assistance. I'm copying excerpts from the Dev League press release below. We'll be doing a segment on them for our May episode, but you can find links to our Mini Maker Faire video on the CCTV YouTube Channel and daily viewing times for Career Changers TV by clicking here.

BTW, there's still time to sign up for their next "part-time" 26-week course,  April 28 - October 25 Wednesday & Thursday 6 - 10pm, Saturday 9am - 8pm

From Dev League's press release:

Dev League to Advance 21st Century Technology Competency in the Islands Announces Scholarships and Tuition-Assistance for Coding Courses
In its groundbreaking business initiative to bring technology competency to the Islands, Dev League today announced two scholarships: a tuition-assistance loan plan and a federally-funded workforce development program to help motivated individuals learn professional web development at its coding boot camp. Located at the Manoa Innovation Center, the 12-week program aims to ready students for jobs in entry-level web development both here in Hawaii and on the mainland.

According to LinkedIn, the top 25 hottest skills of 2013 required coding skills. Technology skills are highly valued. Web programming was number 13, right between number data engineering and algorithm design.

The Women Who Code scholarship is 25 percent off cost of tuition for a single selected applicant to a qualified female applicant. The low-income scholarship is 100 percent off cost of tuition for a single qualifying applicant. Both scholarships are sponsored by Dev League to increase diversity and opportunity in the tech industry.

Dev League’s partnership with Upstart.com is a tuition-assistance plan that enables applicants to finance their tuition over a term of five or 10 years based on future income. This unique loan program helps match qualified “upstart” individuals with “backers” who make offers to help fund an individual.

Oahu WorkLinks job development program enables qualified applicants up to 80 percent tuition assistance to Dev League via its federally funded job training services as part of the Workforce Investment Act program. To learn more about the scholarships, tuition-assistance programs and to apply, visit the Dev League web site at http://devleague.com/apply. The company has posted three new courses on its web site (click here).

New Trafficking Signs

April 3rd, 2014
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HT Notice

Since my Career Changers TV show is part of the 808HALT.com project to combat human trafficking in Hawaii, I've been tracking related State laws that were passed last year. One piece of legislation that received little attention concerns posting trafficking hotline signs in establishments that hold liquor licenses, employ nude dancers or massage therapists -- places that could be fronts for sex trafficking operations. While we fully endorsed making this info available to possible victims who are recruited to work in hostess bars, strip joints and spurious "spas" that offer more than massages, we wondered how and when the law would be implemented.

As it happens, our 808HALT meetings include people from the FBI, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and community organizations that represent immigrant populations from countries where much of the trafficking originates. So we hear a lot of things through the coconut wireless. One tip we received was that the above "NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES" sign is starting to appear in Honolulu establishments with somewhat shady reputations. It's possible those businesses aren't doing anything illegal, but at least the women who work there now have a contact number to call if they feel they are being exploited.

However, one of the challenges our coalition has faced in getting this kind of info out to trafficking victims is many of them do not speak or read English very well. We've translated many of the 808HALT videos into different languages and have printed materials in multiple languages as well, but getting that info to the people who really need it is difficult. Law enforcement and groups like ours still largely rely on word-of-mouth -- which nowadays includes texting, cell phones and emails. So if you know of anything that seems fishy and could be human trafficking -- laborers, domestic servants, farm workers, exploited children -- please contact us through the www.808HALT.com website.

There is supposedly a $100 per day fine for employers in the establishments targeted by the new law who fail to post the trafficking hotline signs. But it's not clear to me who is actually responsible for putting up the posters, and who will be enforcing the rule. The signs list the Hawaii Department of Labor offices and phone numbers, so maybe it's their jurisdiction. Anyone out there know if police can cite business owners for failure to comply with this new law?

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The new April episode of Career Changers TV begins airing Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For more details on that, please see my last post by clicking here. You can also view video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Makers Movement and More

April 1st, 2014
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Makers pix

PROGRAM ALERT: The new April episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over 200,000 views and is climbing each month. Contact me directly if you're interested in advertising on the show or being a featured sponsor!

Above is a photo of my videographer, Stanford Chang, shooting b-roll of the first-ever Honolulu Mini Maker Faire at Iolani School on March 15. Despite the obsolete spelling of "faire," it has nothing to do with medieval times or making miniature fairy sprites -- although they did make mini-robots and small 3-D printed objects for demo purposes. There were also knitters and do-it-yourself types who work in all types of mediums, from film and virtual reality to woodworking, metal and molded plastic.

So what is the Maker Movement all about? Watch the show or view the segment to find out! We also did a separate piece on the Hawaii Inventors group, and three of the products they had on display at the event. BTW, hats off to Iolani School for hosting the Mini Maker Faire, which was actually spread out over two floors of the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. What was cool is the faculty and students seem to have a creative flair themselves, as evidenced by their homage to Frank Sinatra... in the elevator of all places!

Sinatra elevator

Above is the back wall of the elevator, which plays Sinatra music and has other visual references to his recording career, courtesy of #iolanihackers. While we were filming, there were a number of students who were working on various high tech projects that weren't a part of the Makers fair. I also saw younger kids who signed up for Makers workshops that taught soldering. So one thing you can say about the Makers Movement -- and Iolani School -- is that they both take an eclectic approach to creativity.

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In the same episode, we have a segment about the fun and quirky Hound & Quail shop on Kapiolani. Never visited it before? Actually, it's not that easy since they're only open three hours each week on Monday due to the partners' full-time professions. Mark Pei is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines. Travis Flazer works for the theater department of Punahou School -- er, "Theatre" I mean... another old-timey English spelling like "Faire." No wonder foreigners think English is confusing. Here's the link to that video.

Anyhow, if you're wondering what the story is behind the name, there really isn't anything specific -- other than their interest in taxidermy, including mounted birds and other animals that had me thinking about Norman Bates in PSYCHO. But Mark and Travis are really nice, intelligent, normal guys... well, just a tad off center, perhaps.

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WAIMEA VALLEY NEWS: On Sat., April 5 at 10 AM, they will be officially dedicating the renovated amphitheater to Rudy Mitchell. "Uncle Rudy" has been an integral part of the valley's history and vision, according to Richard Pezzulo, Waimea Valley Executive Director. You can learn more about the restoration of the amphitheater (not "amphitheatre") and other new developments by watching the piece we did back in February (click here).

Small Packages Lead to Big Box Plant

March 10th, 2014
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Rengo (medium)

One of the Job Quest job fair stories that didn't make it into this month's Career Changers TV show is posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which has now topped 180,000 total views and averages more than 28,000 views per month. But many of our business-oriented stories fly under the radar and don't get much attention because they don't have a built-in following from social media or they shy away from publicity.

Such was the case with Rengo Packaging. Never heard of them? Neither did I, so when I spotted their booth at Job Quest, I went over to investigate who they were and what type of jobs they were looking to fill. Turns out this was the company that sprung up after Weyerhaeuser closed the Honolulu box plant in 2008... well, actually, there were some important interim steps along the way. First, 13 former Weyerhaeuser employees formed Hawaii Box and Packaging to act as a distributor, but weren't producing the boxes locally. Then in 2011, they were acquired by Rengo, the largest corrugated box manufacturer in Asia. Rengo decided to build a new plant on Oahu that was scheduled to open this month and start making boxes by June 1. Here's the link to the video segment. They are looking to hire 30 to 40 new employees -- no small thing in Hawaii's job market.

The reason I took a personal interest in their story was back in 2008 I was deeply involved in the beach access movement because some residents in Kailua put up a locked gate on a "private" beachside lane that neighbors had been using for years to get to the beach. I met Scott Werny, who was the Surfrider Oahu co-chair at the time, and he helped me organize the statewide Groundhog Day rallies that generated a good deal of media attention for the cause. His day job was being a packaging engineer at Weyerhaeuser -- which fascinated me since you don't often think about what goes into designing something as simple as a box. Yet there's a myriad of factors that a designer has to take into account for each product.

After Scott got word the old W plant was closing shop, he told me about the small group that was going to form their own company to continue as a distributor. But he acknowledged it was risky, and it was no sure thing they would succeed. A few months later, Scott was hit with more unexpected bad news. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Friends rallied to support the young father of two kids, yet he asked us to make donations to the National Parkinson Foundation on his behalf instead of focusing attention on him. That's the kind of person Scott is.

It had been a couple years since I last spoke to him, so I asked Rengo's Operations Manager Glenn Masaki if Scott was still working for them. Yes, he said. Scott is their one and only packaging designer, and his Parkinson's is under control. Later, I caught up with him on the phone and he sounded great. His personal life was in transition again (divorce, moving to a new place) while his professional life is doing well now that Rengo has given them the capital and resources to build their new plant at Campbell Industrial Park with about 4 acres under roof.

So, next time you get a pizza delivered or buy a box of locally-made candy, chances are Scott and his co-workers at Rengo were the folks who are responsible for the packaging. It's a testament to the resilience of hard-working people in Hawaii, who didn't give up when a big company decided to pull up stakes... or when personal challenges confronted them. If you would like to make a donation on Scott's behalf, here's the link to the National Parkinson Foundation site. Progress has been made in treating the disease, but there is still no cure.

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For daily viewing times of the new schedule for Career Changers TV, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

 

RoboCop Redux

February 19th, 2014
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Although I haven't seen the new RoboCop reboot/remake/re-imagining or whatever you want to call the latest incarnation -- or reincarnation, if you will -- I do have a personal connection to the original man-as-machine sci-fi action flick that came out in 1987. Since I frequently mention my failed screenwriting career as the impetus for becoming a local TV show producer, some of you may recall from past blog posts that a co-writer of the first RoboCop took a liking to an early script of mine and tried to get it produced through his contacts in the movie business. This was about 20 years ago, and after months of rewrites, nothing happened with the project.

Well, that's not entirely true -- stuff did happen. I learned a lot about how Hollywood works, and the reality of what it's like to be a screenwriter or producer from the phone calls and Fed Exed script notes I got over the next few months. Back then, writers weren't using email and Skype to communicate. There also wasn't a web-based cottage industry of script scouting services, screenwriting consultants, and dozens of contests that claim they can provide aspiring writers with access to top industry contacts if they win. Back when I banged out my first scripts on an electric typewriter, it was mostly about making personal connections in the business and finding a mentor who could help you get your foot in the door. To a certain degree, that's still true -- writing a great script is crucial, but you have to get it in the right hands. And that takes persistence, creativity or luck.

In my case, it was all three. I had written a dark comedy based on my 1988 stint in rehab for alcoholism, followed by a bizarre punk rock musical comedy about an aging loser who becomes the poster boy for the ultimate lifestyle makeover company... which is really a front for a global entertainment conglomerate that has designs on remaking entire cities and brainwashing residents into buying all their mass media products -- music, movies, TV, merchandise -- from the cradle to the grave. Yeah, like Disney or Comcast. This was around 1994 before merger mania and the internet giants started turning that fanciful notion into reality. Yet I didn't think the co-creator of RoboCop would be seriously interested in my script when I signed up for a University of Hawaii screenwriting workshop given by Michael Miner.

At best, I hoped he would give me professional feedback, which was part of the deal for participants. When each writer got up and pitched their script, he would listen, offer a comment or two on the scripts he had read, and work in some personal anecdotes about his experiences in Hollywood. I have a fear of public speaking and have blanked out in front of groups before, so unlike some of the others who got up and enthusiastically acted out parts of their script, I nervously tried to read a synopsis of the plot. After I finished, a young UH coed with short red hair held her hand up and asked in a bored tone, "Is it supposed to be funny?" Ugh.

But Miner quickly interjected, and told them it was very funny despite my terrible pitch, and tried to retell a scene from it. The other writers just sat there stone-faced. He shrugged and said you had to read it on the page to get it. Later, during a break, he walked over to the little classroom desk I was sitting at and said he liked my screenplay a lot, then added: "We should talk." That turned into a lunch meeting, and a subsequent offer to help me develop (i.e., rewrite) my script and shop it around. One reason he sparked to it was that before he wrote RoboCop, he was a cameraman and had worked on music videos -- my protagonist was a failed punk rocker, who winds up working a dead end job in a Hoboken record store before those became extinct too. He did take the finished rewrite to the president of MTV Films, who passed (they were making movies about singing cockroaches that were geared to their key demographic of 12 to 15-year-old boys) and another movie production company that had ties to the music biz. They passed too.

It was disappointing that the project never got off the ground. However, during that time period I continued writing new stuff that also got attention through big screenwriting contests and other personal referrals... and I've had at least half a dozen scripts get close to being sold or optioned for development, only to fall by the wayside as well. During the past 27 years since the original RoboCop came out, Miner has made a nice living writing a number of projects that weren't produced or got rewritten, but he's never had another movie that has gotten the same critical or popular acclaim of that iconic film. He still writes, has made smaller documentary films, and is an accomplished photographer with gallery showings of his work (some of his beautiful black and white landscapes were taken on the Big Island, in fact). We exchange Christmas cards, and I follow him on Facebook. For the record, he's posted favorable comments about the new take on RoboCop as a reflection of the times we live in now, not the world that existed in 1987.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why he took an interest in my script about recycling and repackaging old TV shows, music and movies for future generations of brain-dead consumers. At its heart, the original RoboCop was a smart satire about privatizing government services such as law enforcement, and mine was a satire about the lack of originality in the entertainment business. The irony is we never foresaw the entertainment powers-that-be taking a classic like his movie and giving it the makeover treatment. For better or worse, I suppose it's better than fading away and being forgotten.

If you've seen the new RoboCop, would love to know you're thoughts on it! Comments are open for now...

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Valentines Day is over, but you can still catch our segments about Watanabe Floral in the current Career Changers TV episode! Click here for daily viewing times and the link to our CCTV YouTube Channel. BTW, in the same show there's a segment about what's new at Waimea Valley... FYI, they have begun offering guided hikes by the Hawaiian Hiking Company and off-road expeditions through North Shore EcoTours. Both are great ways to experience the valley in exciting, new ways!