8th Grade Career Expo Gives Douglas County Students a Look at Work Force
CASTLE ROCK -- The Douglas County Fairgrounds was bustling with the movement and voices of Douglas County 8th graders. Moving from station to station, students this Wednesday morning were hearing about a myriad of opportunities, ranging from construction to engineering, military service and college that would open to them in just four more years.
“I think this is a great idea. I got to talk to some of these guys that work at these companies,” said Aarnav Shingh, an 8th grader at Sierra Middle School. “I asked one man what his company did, and there was a huge difference between what I thought the company did and what they actually do.”
The Career Connect 8th Grade Expo, developed and hosted by The Foundation for Douglas County Schools, is a one day event for all 8th grade students in the Douglas County School District to meet with businesses and higher education representatives.
Thinking About a Trade
“It’s fun to spread the word about our industry,” said Bryan Horn, a technician at Western States Fire Protection Company. “I didn’t know anything about this job when I was in school, so it’s fun to be able to come in and expose the kids to what we do.”
Bryan is at the expo with a fellow technician, Philip Westkamp. Both of them have never had a conversation about fire safety systems with anyone too young to work alongside them, but appreciate the opportunity to get these students thinking about it early.
The sentiment is shared with the young attendees. Cooper Carlson, another 8th grader from Sierra Middle School, was impressed with the diversity of businesses and schools on display at the expo.
“I think it’s a great idea, and there are a lot of companies that I didn’t think would be here like Lockheed Martin, and Wings over the Rockies,” said Cooper. “It seems like they wouldn’t want to start talking to middle schoolers, but they’re getting ahead of the game and teaching kids what they have to do, years before, to be able to work there.”
Getting a Head Start in High School
Along with community businesses, a group of students from Legend High School’s Technology Student Association (TSA) also manned a booth. Their mission: to get 8th graders thinking about programs in high school that will prepare them for some of the job opportunities on display at the expo.
“When I was in 8th grade and I came to this expo, I was very intimidated by the adults,” said Legend senior Katie Lea. “But we’re in a position where we can relate to them as students.”
The TSA programs throughout DCSD offer students a chance to work in any technological areas they are interested- from robotics to software engineering, to photography and graphic design. The program also teaches life skills that businesses and organizations are looking for, like public speaking and problem-solving.
Legend TSA member Nicole White says that the journey towards gaining that technical proficiency makes for a good time.
“It sets you apart as a student,” says White. “It teaches you the life skills you may not be able to learn in a classroom setting, you’re competing for a purpose, and you have fun while learning those skills.”
Working Toward a Goal
Throughout the day, students absorbed information from more than 79 businesses and organizations throughout Douglas County.
For the businesses, it’s a matter of having students look at life after grade school a little differently.
“I got into the trade by accident,” said Western States Fire Protection Company’s Westkamp. “I didn’t know this was an industry. No one really looks up at sprinkler heads, but now that’s all I do is look up.”
For the students, the day was for considering goals to work toward.
“It’s nice to be able to see what all is out there, and what I can work toward,” said Aarnov. “I really liked seeing the School of Mines out here and asking them questions, because I’m starting High School next year and I’m learning what I have to do to get there.”
“The students were asking phenomenal questions and I think the experience really opened the eyes of a lot of students,” said Meaghan Sullivan, Director of The Foundation for Douglas County Schools. “We couldn’t do any of this without the incredible support of our sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, and teachers. It is truly a community effort and we are so grateful to all of our partners who came together to help our students prepare for their future.”