Most middle school students—and the majority of high school students—don’t have a clear idea of what career they want to have, or even what careers are out there. In Western Michigan, that changed in April 2015 when more than 5,500 students from sixth to twelfth grade were invited to the first annual MI Career Quest.
After nine months of planning, an idea that began with the ABC Western Michigan Chapter, Michigan Works! and Kent Intermediate School District (ISD), became a hands-on, interactive learning experience that exposed thousands of students from Michigan to careers and industries that they didn’t know were options for them.
The event consisted of more than 900 volunteers representing four different industries that are in high demand in the region including construction, healthcare, information technology and manufacturing. Each industry had employers with exhibits that allowed the students to use their hands and understand the positive aspects of choosing a career in one of these fields.
For the construction exhibit, 15 trades were highlighted including architecture and engineering; project management; safety; concrete; carpentry and drywall; flooring; tile setting; glazing; home building and framing; iron working; mechanical; plumbing; welding; fire protection; and electrical.
Thirty ABC member companies supported the event by exhibiting or volunteering as student guides. The students, who were split up into different sessions throughout the day, had two hours to explore all four industries. Exhibits included safety demonstrations where students got to put on safety harnesses, using different tools and even learning how to weld.
“The hands-on portion of the event was key,” said ABC Western Michigan Chapter’s Marketing and Membership Director, Jen Schottke. “It was fun for the students and it got them engaged while also allowing the employers to have a conversation with them and explain their jobs.”
The Construction exhibit was managed by the Construction Workforce Development Alliance of West Michigan who is an alliance comprised of ABC Western Michigan, the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan, and the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids. Michigan Works! of Kent, Allegan and Barry Counties in Michigan was the umbrella organization who coordinated all four industries while Kent ISD coordinated the schools involvement.
“Overall, the students were surprised by the number of careers available,” said Schottke. “Most of them came with an idea of what industry they were most interested but were amazed by the industries they hadn’t thought of before. Some even commented that although they had never thought of construction as a career before, they were now going to consider it.”
In addition to the exhibits, MI Career Quest gave all of the students “career cards” that gave an overview of what each industry offered along the lines to salary. For middle school students, there was information provided about the construction summer camp offered through ABC Western Michigan and the Core Jump Start program with potential job placement was presented to juniors and seniors in high school.
The event was a success, opening these student’s eyes about the many career opportunities available and getting them excited about choosing an industry that they are passionate about, no matter what that career might be.