As the Career Coach in Madison City Schools, I often get asked, “So what do you do?” I feel this is a loaded question because I wear many hats in my work with students. The foundation of my job is exposing students to career opportunities in order to help them make the best decisions after high school. I partner with teachers, counselors, and business/industry partners in many different ways to meet this goal. I have the unique opportunity to work with 6th-12th graders in the area of college and career readiness. We have made trips to Calhoun Community College, STI Electronics, and we even toured the Rocket City Trash Pandas stadium earlier this year. Each time students have been able to get hands on exposure to specific career areas, they learn how each area is related to current classroom instruction. They also gain an idea of how different pathways could become a realistic career in their future. Exposure expands their limited context of what career options they have for the rest of their lives. One impactful way I believe students make relevant connections with industry is hearing directly from professionals. Career panels are a great way to facilitate this discussion.
On Friday, December 6th, several engineers came to Bob Jones High School to participate in an Engineering Career Panel. Jessye Gaines and Jonathan Bailey allowed their Introduction to Engineering Design students to attend this panel. They shared their different experiences in engineering with the students and gave relevant advice for their career journeys. They talked about the importance of hard (technical) skills and soft (professional) skills. These engineers were very careful to stress soft skills such as hard work, punctuality, teamwork, flexibility, and critical thinking. These skills are not only applicable to engineering but also to any field they may choose.
The students learned what classes they should focus on while they were in high school and the reasons these were important for engineering. The panelists also stressed to students that a love of curiosity and learning is necessary to succeed in this field. They also reminded students that whether they start at a community college or university, engineering will have the same benefits for them long term.
We were fortunate to have a very educationally diverse panel, ranging from associate degrees to doctorate degrees. This showed students the various pathways they could take to become engineers. They learned that there is no “one size fits all” in education. They must make the choice that benefits them the most individually. The goal of this panel was to increase students’ knowledge and awareness of skills they will need to succeed as engineers and what they can do now as high school students. The perspective of each panelist was invaluable because they shared direct industry knowledge with the students. By exposing them to more people and pathways, students will hopefully be able to make more informed and effective career decisions.
Madison City Schools could not have done this panel without the help of our community partners pictured above: (from left to right)-- Doug Brazier (Calhoun Community College), Nick Atchley (Raytheon), Matthis Tate (Raytheon), Clifton Wesley (Raytheon), Veonicca Wesley (Raytheon), Eric Wilson (Delta Research Inc.), and Blake Fernandez (Booz Allen Hamilton).
Not pictured--Nick West (Sonoco), Dr. Carmine Bailey (Bailey Consulting Services), and Dr. Alisa Henrie (UAH).