Getting Real About Future Occupations.

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Students at an event called Craft Championships where local construction trade businesses from around Maine display their trades.

The Silent Epidemic Survey commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that four out of five (81 percent) of students felt there should be a stronger connection between school and work and more opportunities for real-world, experimental learning. The survey suggests that job shadows and other real life work experiences help increase motivation in school and decrease dropout rates because they help students understand the relationship between what they learn in school and their life after.

Mr. Korobkin has taught Career Explorations for 15 years, and currently has about 100 students.  Korobkin says at first he only taught the class because his department felt students needed more help finding out what careers interested them. This class was just one of the classes he teaches, but he has loved the opportunity. His career class sometimes goes on a field trips with Mrs. Roth to visit job sites. Korobkin believes that every student should experience a job shadow at least once before graduation.

“I like to go on as many of those field trips as possible because I learn things there too,” says Korobkin.

In Korobkin’s experience, about half of his students each year change their minds about what they want to do for a career when they go on job shadows. Or sometimes students will discover like Li did, that they are interested in a different aspect of the job than they expected. For example while at the jobsite, they might ask what another employee’s job is about, and find it is a better match for their skills than what they went to observe. He wishes students would use Mrs Roth’s services more.

“They have this great resource that will help them better themselves for the future but do not use it,” Korobkin says. “Think of job shadowing as an investment, you are investing in your future.”

By doing a job shadow, students can eliminate jobs that they  don’t like so they don’t spend a lot of money getting educated for a job that will never be a fit. For example, if you don’t like blood then you don’t want to spend money going to med school to become a nurse. Mr. Korobkin remembers one student who was determined to be a nurse, but on her first day on the job, right out of school, she knew she didn’t didn’t like it because she would get sick whenever she saw blood. By going on a job shadow she could have avoided paying all of the money going to school to become a nurse. She would have known that it was not a good fit.

“This is a huge help and money saver when you job shadow,” said Korobkin.

Mrs. Roth, the cordinator of the job shadows for the students, first began as a Community Connections Coordinator back in 2006 when Mr. Stasio, TA headmaster at the time, had the idea to connect students with community businesses via job shadows. She found it personally gratifying to help kids find a career path that was a match with their skills and interests.

Since then, she has placed more than 1000 students in job shadows and other real life job experiences in our community.  She finds it satisfying to be the person who gets to help kids make a career plan.

Mrs. Roth has seen many changes in student career orientation in the last 8 years.

“When I first started, boys wanted to be professional athletes or work in sports management  and girls often wanted to go into style-related fields. I quickly realized it was my responsibility to expose them to options they may not have thought of on their own that would pay well and be growth areas in the future.”

She says there are a lot of high-paying jobs that teens are not aware of such as  an actuary (a person who does statistical calculations for insurance companies),  a biomedical engineer (a person who makes prosthetics and certain tools that are used during medical procedures), and the various specialties in the housing trade. 

While Roth wants students to be realistic when choosing a career path, she also believes, “it’s important to think expansively. A student can do whatever he or she wants to do if they’re willing to take some risks.”

Mrs. Roth’s best advice is to have a plan. Students need to have a sense of direction, but also be open to new possibilities as they come up. She says she sees too many students that just drift through high school with no clue where they are going or what they are going to do when they graduate. She feels her role is to help these students by guiding them onto some sort of career path.

“The saddest thing for me is when I meet with desperate seniors six weeks before graduation and they ask to go on a job shadow because they have no idea what they are going to do when they leave TA. They do not know what type of career they want or field they want to get into.”

 Roth admits. “This group is   destined to work in minimum wage jobs until they put a career plan in place and begin taking baby steps toward it.”

This December, Roth took a group of students to an event in Augusta at the Civic Center called Craft championships where local construction trade businesses from around Maine displayed their trades. There were electrical, carpentry, engineering, and heating companies. A few of the businesses that were there were Johnson & Jordan Mechanical Contractors, Interstate Electrical Services, and Auburn Concrete.

Some of the companies had interactive activities the students could do such as, build bird houses, and make sheet metal toolboxes. Anything that the students made they got to bring home.

This event was sponsored by the Association of Builders, and Contractors. Craft Championships was held to get high schoolers interested in the construction trades, since the majority current workers in the industry are reaching an age of retirement, and so the trade needs, some new younger workers inspired to be working with their hands.

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