SIDNEY – Almost 1,000 students from every school district in Shelby County visited the 2019 Career Exploration Academy on Thursday and Friday to learn about careers available to them in the county.
Workforce Partnership of Shelby County hosted the two-day program at the Shelby County Fairgrounds. Students – ranging from eighth graders to high schoolers at Anna, Botkins, Christian Academy, Fairlawn, Fort Loramie, Holy Angels, Houston, Jackson Center, Lehman Catholic, Sidney and Russia – were able to connect with local employers in a hands-on environment.
“We’re hoping that through the continuous presence that Workforce has working with the schools that we just keep them connected so by the time they’re seniors they know we can go into a job at one of these companies or if we go off to college we can come back and work at one of these companies,” Deb McDermott, director of Workforce Partnership of Shelby County, said.
“That’s the goal, is to keep the local student who we’re raising up, and we have great school districts doing that, let’s keep them here. Let’s keep them in Sidney and Shelby County working and living and being citizens that contribute to the economic aspect of this area.”
Each student at the Career Exploration Academy visited five of the 30 stations hosted by Shelby County employers. The students got to pick three careers that interested them and were randomly assigned two others.
All of the employers had unique stations to highlight the opportunities at their companies and answer students’ questions. Some of the companies allowed students to play games, some showed them tools and products, some allowed them to use equipment and some had giveaways for the students to take home.
“The mission is career exploration, and it’s to expose them in a hands-on atmosphere to different skills that these companies use to connect them with future employment here in Shelby County,” McDermott said “It’s more realistic. It sparks maybe some enthusiasm because they’re getting to do instead of listening.”
Companies who attended the fifth annual Career Exploration Academy included Wayne Trail, US Bank, Regal Plumbing & Heating, Plastipak, Wilson Health, Continental Express, Detailed Machining, Freshway Foods, Emerson Climate Technologies, Honda, DRT Power Systems, Mama Rosa’s, Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services, Sidney Police Department, Wells Brothers, Panel Control, Ply Gem, Lochard Inc., Kirk NationaLease, Ferguson Construction and Slagle Mechanical. The City of Sidney, Edison State Community College and Upper Valley Career Center also had stations.
The diversity of companies in Shelby County – and the diversity of jobs within those companies – was something organizers wanted students to see.
“They’re also learning when you work at a manufacturing company you may be the accountant, you may be an (human resources) person,” McDermott said. “So it’s not always that you have to be that manufacturing person to work at one of these companies. They need all the business people, too.”
Tony Trapp, the apprenticeship coordinator at Upper Valley Career Center, told students some jobs require a college degree while others do not. He encouraged students to have a plan for their future.
“Don’t go off to college just because you don’t know what you want to do,” Trapp said. “Go to college because you know what you want to do. All right? That will save you a lot of money. That will save you a lot of time.”
Scott Barr, the executive director of the Shelby County United Way, told students the actions they take in middle school and high school can affect their future employment opportunities.
“Make yourself as valuable as possible when you graduate,” Barr said. “Your attitude, effort and decisions will either make you more valuable or less valuable to an employer.”
The Workforce Partnership of Shelby County maintains contact with students throughout the school year with events, speakers, videos and the Hometown Opportunity website. Teachers also use some of the lessons from the Career Exploration Academy in their curriculum.
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