Local students imagine the possibilities at the Career Expo
Careers in science, the outdoors, music, technology, medicine and industry were all on display for high school students Tuesday at the Southwest Minnesota Career Expo at Minnesota West.
WORTHINGTON — About 1,000 students from 11 area schools got to see a multitude of career and educational possibilities laid out in front of them Tuesday at the Southwest Minnesota Career Expo at Minnesota West Community and Technical College .
“I think it’s really interesting, and it really opens up your eyes to opportunities,” said Katherine Lopez, a sophomore at Worthington High School, as she surveyed some of the 75 exhibitors at the event.
Lopez, who hopes to be a neuropsychologist, took a special interest in Minnesota West’s own Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers booth, where students could examine a model skull and a frog skeleton or experience what it would be like to walk on Mars through virtual reality goggles.
“Look up, you can see the stars in this one,” advised Minnesota West physics teacher Paul Seifert, as he helped a student get the most out of the VR experience, adding that going out of town where it’s darker would help them see the real stars better too.
Michael Wesselink, a math instructor at Minnesota West, was also staffing its STEM careers booth Tuesday, and said that workers in careers related to clean energy are really in demand right now, whether they’re in hands-on technical fields like wind tower repair or in fields like engineering that require a more traditional four-year degree.
“Lots of R and D (research and development) is going to go into that,” he said.
The students doing a little research into their own future options at the Career Expo came from WHS, but also Edgerton, Hills-Beaver Creek, Jackson County Central, Mountain Lake Christian, Mountain Lake, Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Adrian, Ellsworth, Fulda and Luverne schools.
Presenters, for their part, tried to attract the students to their booths for a little information with spinning games, prizes, donut holes, educational candy games and even more exotic fare. An electrified plinko board flashed merrily at the Nobles Cooperative Electric booth, students waited in line for manicures at Minnesota West's cosmetology booth and students at the Runnings booth could wield a leaf blower to shoot empty plastic bottles into a pail to earn a prize.
“We are hiring,” said John Aanenson, manager at Runnings, who hoped to recruit part-time sales associates and cashiers at the event. He said the leaf-blower game had gone over well at the Expo two years ago, too. “It’s a blast for them.”
Many employers at the event were also looking further in the future for potential hires, like Bedford Industries, which requires its workers to be 18 and has jobs requiring a range of education levels.
“We usually like to come to these to get our name out there, so people realize how many opportunities there are in Worthington,” said Melissa DeGroot, HR specialist with Bedford Industries. “You don’t always have to leave.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was also looking to the future at the Expo, not just for employees but for supporters.
“You have to have people who love it, whether they work in it or not,” said Cathi Fouchi, regional planner with the MNDNR.
Fouchi was also there to refer students to the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, a nonprofit organization that pays young people to work on projects related to improving access to outdoor recreation, restoring natural habitat, protecting waterways and responding to community needs and natural disasters, according to the group’s website, conserverationcorps.org.
Participants in the program receive a monthly living allowance and are eligible for additional funds for their education after their service is complete. They gain skills along the way, which could range from certification in chainsaw use to wildfire-fighting training.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Abraham Candelara, a WHS sophomore, of the Career Expo. He said he was most interested in what the Department of Labor and Industry had to say.
“Good pay,” Candelara answered.