Kids, meet careers

Jobs expo connects eighth-graders with employers

Jessica Thiel
Posted by of Insight Publications

Picture career speed dating for middle-schoolers, and that pretty much sums up the scene at the Fox Cities Chamber’s 11th annual Your Future Eighth Grade Career Expo.

More than 2,000 students and representatives from 60 businesses converged on Lake Park Sportzone in Menasha for the event that aims to acquaint teens and tweens with careers and get them thinking and planning for their futures.

Students visited five career zones representing industries in the fields of architecture and construction, STEM and manufacturing, agriculture and transportation, health and human services/arts and business, IT and marketing.

With a generation of employees on the cusp of retirement, Boldt Co. is looking to the future to fill positions ranging from trades to project management. If the 1,000 visitors to the company’s “picture yourself in a construction career” photo booth is any indication, the day was a success.

Nate Ortlieb, who works in workforce development for Boldt Co., says eighth grade is a good time to get the company’s message out to kids, as they’re planning high school classes.

“A lot of curriculums are based on what they’re going to go into,” Ortlieb says. “We want to influence that now.”

The Fox Communities Credit Union booth saw lots of traffic as well. Lindsay Diedrich, a digital marketing specialist for the company, says the company is especially looking to hire for teller positions but also seeks employees in areas like quality control, IT and marketing.

“It’s fun to educate kids about the different career opportunities available,” she says.

Attendees like Kelsey Moran and Aly Heindel, both eighth-graders at Appleton’s Einstein Middle School, had fun, too, as well as learning a lot.

Moran went in to the day knowing she was interested in health sciences, but she hadn’t realized how many careers the industry offered. Talking to a chiropractor piqued her interest. Moran says she’d never considered that so much goes on behind the scenes of many careers.

“I definitely got exposed to more jobs and careers,” says Heindel, who’s thinking about a career as a nutritionist and particularly enjoyed visiting the Grand Meridian’s booth and learning about hospitality.

April Ellestad, who teaches eighth grade special education at Einstein, says that kind of exploration is invaluable. She’s seen kids come out of the day with career goals confirmed as well as some who’ve become interested in another area entirely. The day helps her as a teacher, she says, and provides an opportunity to discuss the future with her students.

“Then when they’re talking about high school classes, they can look at what avenues they need to take to reach their goals,” Ellestad says.

Amy Roffers, who represented the organization Women in Technology, wanted to impart to eighth-graders that technology has many different facets. Her hope is that students will discover they’re interested in one of those, or even better, all of them.

Roffers’ favorite part of the day is seeing lightbulbs go on as students learn more about IT, and she hopes students come away from the experience feeling comfortable about contacting companies from industries that interest them.

She also wants them to learn the value of trial and error because in technology, things don’t always work as expected the first time. “Having that grit to push through and try things a couple times is important,” she says. “In the end, you end up having an awesome product.”