What do you want to be?

Published 9:25 am Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kari Fjeldberg, of Classic Reflections Salon & Spa in Albert Lea, talks to eighth-graders about the various scissors she uses at her salon. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Eighth-graders at Southwest Middle School got the unique chance to get out of the classroom and learn about various careers during the sixth annual Career Day.

Lynn Keenan, a counselor at Southwest, started Career Day when she moved to Albert Lea from Michigan about seven years ago. The school she had been at had a similar program so Keenan wanted kids at Southwest to have the same opportunity.

“I thought ‘What a disservice to kids,’” Keenan said. “It’s an opportunity for them to be exposed to careers.”

Keenan is a member of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce’s business education committee. She collaborates with the chamber to find a variety of speakers for the students.

Mindi Askelson, of Riverland Community College, speaks to eighth-grade students at Southwest Middle School Wednesday. Students had the chance to hear from different types of business professionals during Career Day. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Recently the chamber purchased a computer program that students can enter their preferences of which speakers they’d like to see, and the program makes a schedule. Students are assigned to two sessions where they hear from a variety of careers in the field they’re interested in. Then all students go to a panel session where they can hear from all the fields.

“They need exposure to all the career fields,” Keenan said.

She said that though a student might sign up for sessions in art and communication, they might have done that because they don’t know what human services is. At the panel discussion students hear from people in various fields, which can show students something they might not have considered.

Sage Kermes said she hoped to attend veterinary or health science sessions to hear about careers in those fields.

“I want to help animals,” Kermes said.

She said it was nice to hear from professionals who could talk about what’s good and bad in their careers. Kermes was in a session where Alan Hensel and Bekki Flesner, both of Ecolab of St. Paul, spoke about their jobs and benefits of their jobs. Hensel said Ecolab does business with food manufacturers in Albert Lea, and he was able to tell the students what kinds of classes or skills they would need to work at a place like Ecolab.

Keenan said she hoped the sessions gave students some things to think about when they consider what classes to take in high school and after.

“I truly feel kids need to follow their passions and dreams,” Keenan said.

One of the focuses for the day was letting the students know about education after high school. Keenan said that by 2018, 70 percent of jobs will require education after high school. About 20 percent of those jobs requiring more education would require a four-year degree. Keenan was trying to stress that two-year or associate’s degrees would be beneficial to the eighth-graders. She said she was stressing that students need to get the most out of their education.

“They need to do their homework, ask for help and explore a few areas before graduating,” Keenan said.

Students were told that job skills like communication, analyzing, computer literacy and being flexible were important to most careers. Keenan said her favorite part of Career Day was seeing students dressed up and excited to hear from business professionals.

“All the work is so worth it seeing the kids excited,” Keenan said.