This semester, both Cary-Grove High School and Prairie Ridge High School invited numerous businesses, careers and schools to attend the annual Tech and Career Fair at PR and the Job Fair at CG. As students move towards life after high school, district 155’s College & Career Centers are working to shift how we frame opportunities in the workforce.
“There’s been a shift in our society with regard to what we talk to students about in terms of their options after high school,” said Paula Steiner, who has run the College & Career Center at Prairie Ridge for years.
In Steiner’s experience, it all comes down to learning style, not intelligence. She asks students to think about which classes they’ve found the most success in throughout high school. If it’s the hands-on learning in Autos, Foods or Project Lead the Way classes that stands out, a technical career or trade school may be the best fit..
“I always try to tell the kids, think about what your favorite things are that you do in school. What brings you the most joy? And after that, then that’s where we springboard to what am I going to do after high school,” said Amy Hayes, the College & Career Center supervisor at Cary-Grove High School.
Both Hayes and Steiner work with students at all grade levels with a variety of interests and goals after high school. They agree that the earlier students meet with them and begin exploring career options, the better.
“There is a huge gap in our country called the skills gap where technical jobs, vocational jobs, the trades--these people are all retiring. I tell my students, look at that as an opportunity,” said Steiner.
Thankfully, a variety of industry professionals are willing to help our students bridge this gap.
“The amount of community members that are willing to take in our students and give them on the job training is amazing,” said Hayes, who recognizes the importance of getting students who don’t want to attend a 4-year university connected with professionals.
The job and career fairs hosted by each College & Career Center provides students with the perfect opportunity to network and begin thinking about their path after high school.
“I think these businesses coming in are looking to see how our students relate to them,” said Hayes.
“All you know is that you need the job, and they’re the person that’s going to help you get the job. Going to something like the Job Fair is really helpful because you see new faces in a different environment,” said senior Spencer Bethers, whose experience in music and fine arts has taught him to treat every interview as an audition.
Dylan Centers, a senior at Cary-Grove who plans to attend McHenry County College in the fall, had no idea what he wanted to do before visiting the College & Career Center and attending Cary-Grove’s Job Fair.
“It can open your mind to a business you’ve never even heard of that you might like,” said Centers.
For the rest of our conversation with Paula and Amy about the value of connecting with industry professionals, listen to D155’s Workforce Wednesday podcast here.
#WorkforceWednesday is a marketing campaign that will provide valuable content to prepare students with life-ready skills and to initiate and strengthen workforce partnerships in our community which aligns with the district’s strategic plan.
The #WorkforceWednesday marketing campaign is an opportunity for the district to engage, interact, and have two-way conversations with students, staff, business partners and industry professionals across multimedia platforms. To see more #WorkforceWednesday’s be sure to follow @CHSD155 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.