Jaheem Aubrey punched the screen of a tablet computer and cheered as his manipulations made a plastic ball advance along an obstacle course on the floor in front of him. A few minutes later, the Sherwood Park Global Studies Academy sixth-grader worked to keep pumping what appeared to be a real pair of lungs as a group of grimacing students gathered around him.
Seems like a relatively full day. But Jaheem still had two more industries to explore on Tuesday as part of MiCareerQuest at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
“…There is no other event in West Michigan that can impact our future employee pipeline as much as MiCareerQuest. Plus, it is just plain fun to be a part of.” — John Buchan, COO of Autocam
More than 9,000 middle and high school students from 11 counties in and around West Michigan participated in hands-on demonstrations, games and team competitions designed by the pros to introduce them to hundreds of career fields. In the evening, parents, job-seekers and community members were invited to explore the same careers and even leave resumes with companies looking to hire.
The nearly 100 participating employers represented four growing segments of West Michigan industry: construction, healthcare, information technology and manufacturing, spread out in 27,000 square feet of exhibitor space.
Students spent 25 minutes in each industry quadrant talking with professionals and experiencing some of the tasks of the trades. Representatives from higher education also were onsite to help students make the connection between training, education and careers.
Priming the Talent Pipeline
Kent ISD, West Michigan Works! and the Construction Workforce Development Alliance created MiCareerQuest in 2015 in response to two distinct needs. Employers’ need talent, given an aging workforce and changing technology, while schools need ways to bring relevance to the content students must master in school.
“We need to expose youth to a variety of occupations and career pathways now so that they’re aware of all the possibilities that exist for great careers in West Michigan,” said Jacob Maas, CEO for West Michigan Works!
“Like many employers, we are challenged with finding talent,” explained John Buchan, COO of Autocam. “MiCareerQuest is a unique and highly effective way to promote manufacturing and, more importantly, to introduce young talent to the high technology needs of the manufacturing sector.”
Added Buchan: “In our view, there is no other event in West Michigan that can impact our future employee pipeline as much as MiCareerQuest. Plus, it is just plain fun to be a part of.”
Jarrad Grandy, director of career readiness at Kent ISD, said the event helps students figure out what they do — and don’t — want to do after high school.
City High School students Emma Gearhart and Michael Segura enjoyed exploring the career options represented on Tuesday. After all, the day was all about exploring, not deciding.
“I’m still bouncing around options, but my mom and my aunt are both nurses, and I really enjoy this type of thing,” Emma said, pointing to a Life EMS ambulance where she and Michael had just taken part in a CPR demonstration.
There are many jobs that do not require a four-year degree, and many where employees can start at an entry level and upgrade their skills while earning a salary. The success of the first career quest brought many inquiries and efforts to replicate it elsewhere, Grandy said, as well as an invitation for organizers to share the concept earlier this year at the National Association of Workforce Boards Forum in Washington D.C.
Hands-on Activities for MiCareerQuest Attendees
- Can you program traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing so people don’t get hit by vehicles? How about analyzing GIS data to meet a community’s changing needs, or planning for $22 million in road repairs and then balancing the budget?
- Can your team be the fastest to install a furnace, build a simulated fire sprinkler system or correctly order all the elements of building a house? Add your design to the oversize tile mosaic.
- Think you can find the vein and draw “blood” from a special device used to teach phlebotomy, or pick out abnormal heart sounds that indicate trouble?
- Take the Titan challenge to make business decisions and see if your “company” could last. Follow a product from development to creation, packaging and shipping.
- What could you do with virtual reality? Print a 3-D boat to understand design principles.