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WCHS Career Expo

Article Written by Karen Cole

Employed, Enrolled, Enlisted Empowered

The Juniors and Seniors from West Central High School visited The Barn at Fairview Acres on March 28.  There the students met with businesses and colleges to investigate new and interesting careers. 

For the past 25 years society has pushed  college as the next logical step after high school. Not all students are interested in attending college.  Often young people have not had an opportunity to explore the job market.

According to national statistics there is a shortage of people going into the blue-collar professions. Older skilled workers are starting to retire. Nationwide there’s a 55 percent shortage of plumbers available for work, and electricians are also in seriously short supply. Meanwhile, construction firms can’t find enough qualified workers to complete jobs.  All told, 77 percent of manufacturers report issues getting and attracting skilled workers.

Business brought hands on activities to entice the students to their tables. The students could wear Virtual Reality goggles to experience welding, changing the oil in a car, fighting fires, plumbing and auto repair. The goggles were furnished by Delabar CTE from Regional  Office of Education #33. Tharps Brothers Underground Utility Construction from Oquawka, Brockway, Carl A Nelson from Burlington, MediaCom & International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union #13 represented the constructions industry. Union #13 attracted many students with completing electrical circuits on  circuit boards.

Representing manufacturing was Siemans Gamesa Wind Energy &  Silgan Food Containers in Burlington and Ft Madison. The medical & dental professions were well represented by Carl Sandburg College, Eagle View Community Health Systems, AHAC (West Central Illinois Area Health Education Center Network and Henderson County Health Department. All the medical/dental professions brought interesting medical appliances, materials and gave information on funding  for educational opportunities.  Henderson County Health Department gave prizes for the correct answers about COVID-19, immunizations, health risks for youth and other services furnished by HCHD.  HCHD also had information in each students folder about COVID-19. Also included in each folder was information about identifying depression in yourself and others. There is also a list of numbers to call if concerned about suicidal thoughts or depression. Depression and suicidal thoughts  has been caused from isolation during the COVID-19 quarantine.  

A Henderson County Deputy represented Law Enforcement.  The TSA spoke of the need for airport security and the different types of measures taken to keep passengers safe. The Burlington Fire Department brought SCBA with oxygen tanks and heavy coats and helmets for the students to try on. 

Carl Sandburg, ROE #33 Early Childhood, and Southeastern Community College had people speaking about education for the 0 to 5 ages. Plus they had really fun toys to play with.  The Henderson County Library displayed new reading materials, and listed several other services the library does such as:  Tuesday Morning Story Telling for preschoolers, The Summer Reading Program & Activities, internet & computers, genealogy and a fun area for kids to play while choosing reading materials.

U of I Extension had exhibits with delicious snacks to discuss nutrition, Flip Education, Explore Careers activities in a Mario form and 4H information.

The military was well represented with ROTC program from Western Illinois University. ROTC prepares college students to become officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. ROTC students can earn a university degree tuition-free in exchange for an agreement to join the military after graduation. The US Army recruiter from Galesburg also talked about life in the military.

Hope Haven recruited students to work with people with disabilities. This is a wonderful opportunity for summer jobs that may lead to a lifetime career.

Stronghurst Collision & Southeastern Autobody  brought a car hood, compression and paint gun to demonstrate refinishing autos.

Southeastern Community  College and Carl Sandburg College were also on hand to discuss other opportunities offered by their institutions.

Each student was required to visit at least eight stations and write something on their Career Passport, they had learned about that business. Once the student had written a Thank You note, the students could choose a gift from the prize table.

The event was the result of conversations with students, schools, industry, colleges, and the medical field. The conversations led to the need for a Career Exploration for West Central students.  West Central School District hopes to see each student of West Central to be Enrolled, Enlisted or Employed after graduation. Most of the attending businesses and agencies will employee or accept an eighteen year old after graduation.

The event was sponsored by the Henderson County COVID-19 Youth Support Cooperative: 
Eagle View Community Health System, Henderson County Health Department, Henderson County Library, Regional Office of Education #33 Delabar Career & Technical Education, Stone-Hayes Center for Independent Living, University of Illinois Extension Unit, West Central CUSD #235, West Central Illinois Area Health Education Center, and Western Illinois Works.

Funding was provided by Henderson County Health Department from the COVID Health Equity PHN Grant managed by the Illinois Public Health Association

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