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What will Kalamazoo Middle Schoolers be when they grow-up?

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MiCareer Quest welding simulation

Young students in Kalamazoo County are one step closer to making their career dreams a reality because of a first time partnership that KRESA offered area eighth and ninth grade students at MiCareerQuest Southwest 2016.

The collaboration partnered area businesses, along with career and education networks to offer a large scale career-readiness event. Nearly 4300 young Kalamazoo County students found out first-hand in mid-February what the local in-demand careers involved.

Jason Luke, Program Director, Education for Employment (EFE) through KRESA shared, "One of our goals was to give students a clearer picture of how certain high school classes can align to specific careers that they are interested in."

Luke went on to point out that the event purpose was to have young people 'connect the dots' between the classes offered in Education for the Arts (EFA) and EFE to post-secondary degrees offered at KVCC or WMU, leading to professional careers available locally.

Luke shared that from their surveys, 85 percent of the students who attended the MiCareerQuest event felt it gave them a better understanding of different career options and the education needed for specific career paths. Over 75 percent of the students said that they learned about education and training opportunities that prior to the event they didn’t even know existed.

More than fifty exhibitors were present from the industry sectors of arts and communication; business and technology; health and human services; engineering and manufacturing. They were organized by the leadership team of Michigan Works! EFA, EFE, Early/Middle College, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), Southwest Michigan First and United 4 Change, along with many other sponsors and volunteers.

Participation included hundreds of local business professionals that were on hand with tools of their trade providing students an up close view of some in-demand career choices. Students were able to enjoy a variety of experiences that included everything from a robotics demonstration from Denso, to a hands-on machinist experience from Humphrey Products. Employees from TowerPinkster created building models as part of a student team activity while instructors from Kalamazoo Valley Community College offered a simulated welding display and an actual car to work on. Public Media Network also offered a chance for the students to film with the videography crew. And the list went on.

Stryker, provided medical equipment like knee and hip replacement joints, surgical saws, and hospital beds for students to touch and use. Jim Beachnau, Mechanical Engineer for Stryker, shared that he felt it was good for young students to see that a medical career goes far beyond being a doctor or a nurse.

"Some of the students had very specific medical questions," Beachnau said. "They left knowing that it takes a team to design, engineer, and manufacture equipment crucial to the medical profession."

Many of the exhibitors offered positive feedback and would like to be more involved next year. Student surveys of those who attended also revealed that they especially enjoyed being able to participate in the hands-on learning stations, while receiving advice and opinions from those working in specific career fields.

Regardless of which career students had interest in learning about, the majority seemed to enjoy the flight simulator from WMU, the wheel chair station from Stryker, and a radio booth to experience. Other popular interactive stations enjoyed were the film and art areas, along with the animal care station to name a few.

"Helping our young people gain insight into themselves and the career opportunities around them is a giant step forward for Kalamazoo County," said Luke.

Looking forward if your company has interest in participating please email Jason Luke or visit the MiCareerQuest website.

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