Students explore myriad career options as they look toward the future

Lacks Enterprises media specialist Joe TerMors shows Frey Nickson how to load a part during a workshop

Sophomore Keshawn Holman examined a shiny silver automobile part for defects while learning about just one of many jobs completed by Lacks Enterprises employees.

While Keshawn said he’s more interested in being an entrepreneur than working in manufacturing, he valued the chance to learn about Lacks and many other companies and colleges at the recent East Kentwood Future Fest. The event included 32 workshops and 140 career and college representatives under the school’s Fieldhouse roof.

“We are all high school students. We all want to do something after high school. This can help us prepare,” Keshawn said, noting that participants could relate to students considering their next steps. “They’ve been through what we are going through,” he said.

Junior Katie Allen poses during a workshop presented by Laura Armenta, owner of Armentality Movement Art Center

When it comes to showing students potential college and career options, East Kentwood High School laid out a buffet.

“We are giving kids a full menu of options,” said Shelbie Spear, college advisor for AdviseMI. “We never want to tell a kid what they have to do with their future. We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can so they understand what their options are. Something like this really gives them that opportunity.”

The event spanned industries including higher education, skilled trades, the military, public services, public safety, retail and more. Workshops organized by Junior Achievement served as reverse job shadow experiences, which included a peek at what jobs entail and lessons in job searching and college essay writing. Seven keynote speakers, all Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 under 40 honorees, shared their own experiences.

The event also included “Decision Day,” with students celebrating their choices post-graduation, such as college, a trade school or the military.

Juniors Shelly Pham and Alexia Saldivar checked out vendors including nursing and Consumers Energy. They said they liked to see the variety of fields and it made them aware of different opportunities. “There’s plenty of things students can do — you can be open-minded (about options),” Alexia said.

Laura Armenta, owner of Armentality Movement Art Center, advises students to pursue their passions

Many Local Opportunities

Jason Heyboer, manager of talent solutions at Lacks, said he offered a workshop to show students what’s available at the local manufacturing company, which employs about 3,000 workers. Jobs in that field today are in high demand, he said, and clean, automated and available for all skill and education levels from an operator on the floor to engineer and supply chain manager. The company offers $5,200 per year tuition reimbursement.

“There’s a high demand in manufacturing in every area,” Heyboer said. “A lot of kids don’t know where to start… we want to show them there’s a company right in their backyard with all kinds of opportunities for them.”

Entrepreneur Laura Armenta, owner of Armentality Movement Art Center. led a yoga workshop to expose students to performing arts and inspire them to follow their dreams. “Young people sometimes fear their own dreams and desires, and it’s OK to be adventurous… Success is being fulfilled, to me.”

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Educators connect students with workforce opportunities

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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. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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