So, What’s Your Job Like?

Students Get a Glimpse at Groundhog Shadow Day

Kent County Sheriff’s Department forensic technician Dawn TenBrink shows students from Forest Hills, Lowell, East Kentwood and Wyoming around a simulated crime scene
Kent County Sheriff’s Department forensic technician Dawn TenBrink shows students from Forest Hills, Lowell, East Kentwood and Wyoming around a simulated crime scene

Cold weather can sometimes be a plumber’s ally. That was one of the first things Nathan Bush and Ben Smith learned as they stomped their work boots against the cold as Pat Bishop soldered copper pipe.

“You can help it cool by just tossing it into the snow,” said Bishop, a plumber with Gregory Plumbing Inc. of Ada.

It was that kind of behind-the-scenes that drove Nathan, Ben and some 900 other high school students from around Kent County to sign up to experience careers up close on Groundhog Shadow Day, Feb. 2, at more than 100 businesses and organizations.

Related: A Shadower’s-eye View of Job Shadow Day – Forest Hills Eastern High School student Allison Gates reflects on Groundhog Shadow Day

Ben Smith, left, of Comstock Park Public Schools, and Nathan Bush, of Lowell Area Schools, watch as Pat Bishop of Gregory Plumbing solders a copper pipe

Ben, a sophomore at Comstock Park High School, said “the whole hands-on aspect” of plumbing appeals to him as a potential career. For Nathan, a senior at Lowell High School, it’s also about not having a ton of college debt.

Josh Gregory, who owns Gregory Plumbing, said he offered the shadowing experience because “it’s so hard to find good people.”

“I want them to understand that there are opportunities to start your life after high school not as a ball of stress because of all the debt,” Gregory said. “These two showed up on time and excited to learn,” he said of Nathan and Ben.

Groundhog Shadow Day is offered by Kent ISD’s Career Readiness Department as a way to help students explore careers and to connect schools to area employers. Other industries that hosted students included health care and engineering, manufacturing, construction and media.

Other Career Readiness activities include MiCareerQuest, held in the spring in downtown Grand Rapids, and partnering with nearly 150 area companies to help more than 1,200 local teachers and counselors bring real-world career experiences to students.

Groundhog Shadow Day meets Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s call for more skilled-trades experiences for K-12 students, and exceeds it by including an even wider variety of industries.

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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