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Eighth-graders explore the future at district career fair

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — There was a world of possibility in the room. Table after table of opportunity, each filled with colorful displays and sheets of information. Technology tables rubbed elbows with agriculture representatives, and high school booths gave the colleges a once-over — the colleges returned the favor.

For roughly 45 minutes of every hour, the old JC Penney — now the West End Plaza event center — was wall-to-wall students.

This is the first year the district Career and Technical Education department has offered a countywide career day, and Nov. 3 was a new experience for staff and students.

“Most of the time the middle schools do their own small career fair,” J.C. Alexander, career development coordinator, said.

But the county has seven middle schools, and it can be difficult for each school to attract a good variety of careers — and then there’s space to think of.

The countywide career day is the solution to this problem, and is replacing school career days this year, Alexander said. By hosting the event in one location for one day, students were able to see a good representation of careers available in Rowan County.

“We pretty much have a representative of every major industry area,” Alexander said.

Bankers, lawyers, teachers, police, engineers and farmers made up just a few of the speakers waiting to talk to students. Between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., every middle school unloaded buses of eighth-graders in school colors. The students swung by a table in the front and picked up a “passport” listing major areas of industry — college, business, public service and so on.

Their job? Talk to one person in each industry, write down a fact they learned and get the professional to sign off on it.

A representative from nearly every college in the area was also available with admissions information. Rowan County Crosby Scholars, a nonprofit that helps prepare students for life after high school, was also present.

“We’re so interested in eighth-graders being exposed to careers because then they have hope for the future,” Executive Director Jennifer Canipe said.

The career day is an initiative that the Career and Technical Education department discussed doing last school year, and began planning in the summer. The purpose is two-fold. Not only does it give students a taste of possible careers, but it also helps them make informed decisions about class choices in high school.

And it can help students make connections between offered career pathways and the job industry. When a student hears “agriculture” they may think of cows and farming, Alexander said. They might not know that studying agriculture can also lead to research or engineering opportunities.

“It’s really opened their eyes to things they hadn’t seen before,” he said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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