Eighth grade students from all over the state got to experience a day in the life of, well, any career they wanted thanks to the Career Discovery expo in Auburn on Feb. 17-18. East Alabama Workforce Investment Network (EAWIN) welcomed 4,000 students from 26 schools and 400 volunteers from nearly 100 businesses through the doors at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
According to the EAWIN website, the purpose of the event was to "create a hands-on interactive career discovery experience that links careers to the classroom." This, it did.
Students were given two hours to go through 11 "clusters," or categories, which included:
"Every group was asked to prepare interactive activities so the kids would do something, not just look," said volunteer co-chairman Janet Ormond. Within the various clusters, students learned how to wire a house plug, report news in front of a green screen, operate a robot arm and even to extract DNA from bananas using store-bought shampoo.
According to Ormond, a crowd favorite was the Virtual Dementia Tour led by Arbor Springs Health & Rehab Center. "They put goggles on [the students] that distort their vision and headphones with strange sounds on their heads. They simulate dementia," Ormond said. "Then they have to go in and try to make their beds, put on pajamas, basic things like that. The kids love it."
Jill Glass, an RN nurse at Arbor Springs, said they came prepared with a hands-on experience that showed students why they are passionate about their jobs. "I wish I would've had something like this when I was growing up so that going into high school I would have had some kind of exposure," she said.
"Part of our goal, part of our mission is to prepare the future workforce," Ormond said. "In eighth grade, students begin to make choices about the classes they'll take in high school. We felt like this was the perfect opportunity to expose them to the world and to the kinds of jobs available in our region." She said her hope is that this would spark a fire in them to help them know how they want to prepare.
In Ormond's experience as a former educator, kids flounder when they go to school without focus or motivation. Career Discovery was created in hopes of giving these students vision.
To show students exactly what educational paths are available, students from Auburn University and several other Alabama community colleges set up in each cluster. Students from College of Liberal Arts, College of Architecture, Design & Construction, College of Agriculture, School of Nursing and Student Outreach were all present.
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