Farmington High School is planning a career day for 10th through 12th graders in the school gym Thursday, March 23, and are asking the business community to play an integral part in the program.
“We are inviting representatives from as many career fields as we can get involved — whether it be the kind of careers you go into out of college or whether it be the kind you jump straight into looking for a job after high school is over — or somewhere in between,” said Josh Johnson, the high school’s RootEd advisor.
According to Johnson, if the school can secure enough business representatives to participate, career day might be expanded to include additional grades at the school.
“We'll bring the students down in waves, and the students will have an hour or two in the gym where they'll have options on where they want to attend,” he said. “We'll give them those options beforehand, so they'll have a plan.”
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The students will be rotated among their chosen representatives in 15-minute intervals.
“So, if I'm a student and I'm more interested in healthcare careers, they will be in a different section of the gym,” Johnson said. “I go to the table where the dental hygiene program is, and I listen to the kinds of careers available, what education is required in that field, what the compensation is like, and ask questions if I've got any. Then once the 15 minutes are up we say, ‘OK, time's up on session one, go to the next part.’ So, then I report over to radiology.”
Johnson explained that, when attending similar events, such as college fairs, students are sometimes reluctant to walk up to an adult and start a conversation.
“Everybody will have their booths all set up and the students will walk around and kind of look, but if there's not a little knick-knack being given away — a lot of students, not all but a lot of students — will not just walk up and say, ‘Hey, could you tell me about your college or whatever?’ So, I think it's better if we direct their attention by saying, ‘OK, you have to go to four of these places over the next hour. Which four are you going to choose?’”
Asked why the students will enter the gym in smaller groups, Johnson said, “We bring them in waves because we have so many students here. I mean, there's about 300 or more per grade level, and so we couldn't just send 1,000 students down to the gym for 30 speakers. It would just be too much.”
Johnson explained that he has been a part of similar events at another school where he was an assistant principal for nine years.
“I used to work at Central High School, and we would have career days,” he said. “We would break it up too — we'd put them in classrooms. But you're talking about a much smaller school — you're talking about one hundred seniors vs. 300 seniors here. So, we have to work with the logistics of having that many students.”
Johnson is assisting Dr. Lindsey Kearns, one of two senior class counselors at the school, in putting together career day. She believes it’s important for the high school to hold a career day for students.
She said, “Our data has shown that we have about 50% of our students who go straight into the workforce instead of going to college first, so we think it's important to be addressing that group of kids too, and making sure that they have an opportunity to see what all is out there so they have good places that they can go after high school if they're not planning on going straight to college.”
Johnson and Dr. Kearns have been on the phone for the past week or two recruiting representatives for the career day.
“She's already got a list of contacts of people who have been a part of this before — people that she's called before — and I can pull in a few extra names that I know from the job I do,” Johnson said. “So, that list is going to grow. The more it grows, the more yes RSVPs you get, and the better the career fair will be.”
Kearns is confident that the business community will respond as it always has in the past.
“Josh has helped tag team, and our numbers are probably higher this year than what they typically are,” she said. “We've always had really good feedback and participation from the community.”
Now, they are asking anyone in the community who is willing to be a representative to get in touch with them by calling the school office at 573-701-1310 and asking for Johnson or Kearns.
Johnson mentioned another way the school is exposing students to the job market and the varied careers that are available in the Parkland.
“When I was in high school, you’d see your teachers every day, and you’d see your parents every day, and so you know those jobs,” he said. “I think about myself — my mom was a teacher, my dad worked at the prison, and I saw my teachers every day. Look at me now, I became a teacher. You know, it's just kind of funny how, if that's all you see, that's all you're exposed to. You have students who, maybe have some sort of a medical condition and they see a physical therapist a lot. They'll want to get into physical therapy, but it's a lot because of the exposure to it. So, the more you can get students to get exposed to things — like we're taking students on an industry tour later this week. It's through the partnership we have with a lot of the area schools. It's called Industry and Education Partnership. It's fantastic!
“Every semester we get together — representatives from all the 11 conference schools and about 13 representatives from local businesses like US Tool, Lee Mechanical, and others. From our end, we meet and talk about what we can do to have students ready for jobs, to take these jobs; then from their end, 'what can we do to help with any kind of resources you need or whatever?' “So, on Wednesday we get on the bus with a group of seniors and juniors, and we drive around. We stop at US Tool, for example, and somebody gives them a tour and talks about what kind of jobs are there and what kind of education you need. Stuff like that is great, and I don't remember doing things like that whenever I was in high school. It's a lot of people's good ideas being built on each other until you have something really nice. We're always constantly trying to make it better.”
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org