STURTEVANT — The future can be hard for anyone to envision, let alone 14-year-olds.
But last week dozens of area employers did their best to get thousands of Racine Unified School District freshmen to picture themselves in a wide range of careers as part of the district’s annual See Your Future Expo.
Spread across two locations — the Gateway Technical College SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., and the Fountain Banquet Hall, 8505 Durand Ave. — the quasi career fair gave the students a chance to chat up professionals across a wide range of industries, from an athletic trainer to police officers.
At the iMet Center, where area manufacturing and engineering firms were set up, students got a chance to see welders in action, play with robotic arms, and even experience what it’s like to run hulking construction equipment through the use of a high-tech simulator.
In its third year, the expo is designed to help the students start thinking about the career track they would like to pursue as part of Unified’s still-growing Academies of Racine.
Designed to give students a better idea of the options available to them after high school, the education strategy works by providing experience in a variety of fields or career paths, from manufacturing, engineering, construction and transportation to business marketing and information technology or the arts, sciences, health and public service.
Among the crowd of 14-year-olds on Tuesday were aspiring authors, pharmacists, engineers, journalists, and one student with a goal of becoming a TV writer.
For many students, a favorite part of the experience was exploring Gateway’s Industrial Design Fab Lab, where the teens got to use an industrial printer, laser cutters and other machines to make three-dimensional creations.
“I liked how everything was really hands-on. Everyone was really nice and people really engaged you in the conversation,” said Case High School student Zoey Myers.
Myers and another student said they wanted to be heart surgeons.
Start IT program
Hoping to interest the students in a career information technology, former Racine Unified School Board member and retired Modine Manufacturing Chief Information Officer Chuck Goodremote talked to them about the work Leeward Business Advisors is doing with youth at the George Bray Neighborhood YMCA, 924 Center St.
Called Start IT, the program is directed toward young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, and teaches them how to handle computer updates, antivirus and cloud backup for small businesses and nonprofits.
Program participants, like 24-year-old Racine resident Avery White, were on hand to chat with students about the experience.
“I like how it has given me an opportunity to learn a trade that is really useful for the rest of my days on this planet, unless Y2K happens again,” White said. “And you get a certificate. I would rather have a certificate than a degree, because you need to have experience to get it.”
Across the way, Dominic Cariello, director of manufacturing-flow instrumentation at Badger Meter, talked to students about the wide range of jobs available at the company from manufacturing, quality and machining to office work.
He said the company is working to get an apprenticeship program going through the academies.
“Outstanding,” said Unified School Board President Robert Wittke said of the event. “It just gets better every year.”