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Exploring careers

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LAUGHTER: Students laugh as another tries on a welding mask and has a hard time seeing out of it. They were able to test out different tools for skilled trades when visiting representatives from Fiat Chrysler.
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WHEEL: Students listen to representatives from the Beacon Credit Union. The students were encouraged to try to visit each booth throughout the gymnasium, multi-purpose room and the back parking lot.
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TRYING OUT TOOLS: Matt Harsh works with a student on trying out electrician tools.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

Maconaquah Middle School held its annual career day on Friday morning, introducing students to a wide range of careers to encourage exploration of different options and ideas.

The 524 students rotated throughout the school’s multi-purpose room, gymnasium and back parking lot to look at displays, take part in hands-on activities and to chat with professionals.

Among the 50-60 presenters were a nurse practitioner, dental assistant, photographer, makeup artist, physical therapist, construction workers, electricians, dog trainers and higher education employees.

Additionally, the Peru Fire Department brought a fire truck and tools, a representative came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a DNR officer came with a truck and boat and the list goes on.

Assistant Principal of Maconaquah Middle School Justin Myers said he believes the students need to have an idea of the different types of careers that are out there. He said the schools work on a continuum, with career awareness in the elementary school, career exploration in the middle school and career preparation in the high school.

“We’re kind of in that exploration piece in the middle school,” he said. “And just allowing them to see all the different types of folks and what those things look like so as they begin to step into that career preparation … maybe they have a little bit better perspective of what they might want to do as they begin to choose their college and career pathway as they work through high school.”

By giving them allotted time to explore different options and ideas, Myers said over the course of three years they’ll have a better understanding of what they might want to do when it’s time to start thinking about secondary or post-secondary training, whether that’s attending college or going into the trades.

Matt Harsh and some of his co-workers represented Fiat Chrysler as skilled tradesmen at career day. They had a table full of tools representing the five trade skills, including an electrician, pipe fitter, tool maker, machine repair and millwright.

He said they were letting students test out some of the tools, so they could see if they might be interested in learning a trade rather than attend college.

“Not all kids are cut out to go to college. So you can go out and instead of going to college ... you work to learn a trade as opposed to sitting in class,” he said.

Carlee Cook, an assistant director for admissions at Ivy Tech in Kokomo also had a table at the event, with an activity to show students a list of different career options and an idea of how much money each occupation could earn.

Additionally, she discussed with them how Ivy Tech can help them reach those careers. Along with attending the career days, Cook said she also goes to the high school to continue visiting with students along their journey.

A Maconaquah grad herself, Cook said it’s a fun experience to discuss the opportunities with the students no matter what age they are.

Phil Harper and Chris Wall also came to the event, representing the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT). They brought with them a lift and a virtual reality experience, to show how they train people to go on big lifts by going through different scenarios.

Harper said they find the career day important because the earlier they’re in contact with students, the better. He said if they have continuous contact with students, they’re more likely to remember IUPAT down the road when they’re making decisions on what they want to do for a career.

Nurse practitioner Elizabeth Jernagan said she thinks the career day is important because it’s hard to know what all careers are out there.

She said when she was young she thought people were either a nurse, teacher, doctor or lawyer but didn’t learn much about other options so it’s great for the students to have the opportunity to learn.

At the end of it all, the students were able to enter a drawing by submitting their scavenger hunt cards where they collected stamps at the various stations they visited, as a way to encourage them to try to attend each one.