Company Reps Introduce Sixth-Graders to STEM, Skilled Trades Careers

Crestwood Middle School sixth-grader-turned-builder Roshan Kami and his business partner classmates scrambled when their clients said they wanted an already-installed window moved from the east side to the west side of their new house.

The Kentwood Public Schools students were tasked with building the LEGO house on a $76,750 budget using architectural renderings. “We had to figure out all of the parts of this building,” Roshansaid after a partial demolition and rebuild. “We had to all work together and get it done really fast.”

Students were learning what it’s like to be a project manager like Tim Johnson at Erhardt Construction in Ada. The last-minute change was to be expected. “Clients do that to us all the time,” Johnson said. “We constantly have to move and shake and figure out how to make it work. It obviously costs money.”

♥Hands-On Career Exploration

The activity was part of Crestwood’s sixth grade Career Fair, during which 120 students explored construction, healthcare, information technologies and aviation with local professionals.

The goal was to get them thinking about careers and what to do to prepare for them, said Nancy McKenzie, Kentwood Public Schools STEM coordinator.

“This is just to give them a little nibble, to plant a seed, so they can explore on their own,” McKenzie said. “It’s a nice overview of a nice variety of careers.”

Students met an airline pilot and mechanic, an IT consultant, health-care professionals and the construction company representatives. Bethany Capra, marketing specialist for Erhardt, said taking part was a chance to let students know potentials in the industry and the careers that await them.

“A lot of people don’t realize all the options in construction and the skilled trades,” she said. “These are areas that will be in high demand when they graduate.”

Sixth-graders Adonis Hughes and Mayson Clark learn how glucose testing works at Crestwood Middle School’s career fairCarolyn Blake, Kent ISD’s Health Sciences Early College Academy diagnostics instructor, taught students blood-typing (with fake blood), glucose testing and phlebotomy. Health care is another in-demand industry.

Sixth-grader Hana Kamber said she wants to be a doctor, and was happy to learn how testing works. “You might be in an emergency and need to be prepared,” she said.

Crestwood Principal Omar Bakri said the main thing that determines whether a child will be successful is motivation, and exposing them to possibilities is the key.

“To me this is the make-or-break stage,” he said of the middle-school years. “It’s very important we introduce them to careers at this age.”

McKenzie plans to follow up with a visit from high school counselors to talk about how students can plan classes aimed at career pathways and a trip to a college campus.

“We want them to get a broad picture of what high school might look like through a counselor’s eyes, and looking at a college and then backing that up with what they’ve seen today,” she said.

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Kent Career Tech Center Health Sciences Early College Academy

Erhardt Construction

School News Network Article on MiCareerQuest

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. Besides covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network, she writes freelance for the travel industry. Read Erin's full bio

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