When it comes to trades, few things are more effective in inspiring interest and familiarity than hands-on experience. Recognizing this, the members of the Down East Counseling Association approached Washington County Community College [WCCC] to design a day for 8th grade boys from around the county to explore potential career options. The result was a resounding success with approximately 100 young men exploring a wealth of exciting opportunities.
Tom Robb, co-organizer of the event explained, “WCCC was more than willing to help the 8th grade boys of Washington County so they would have this wonderful experience.”
During the daylong event, 8th graders from Jonesport, Narraguagus and Princeton, and all points in between selected their top three preferences from a selection of workshops presented by 15 professionals in their field. The list included nearly every trade and career-based program the college offers: Adventure Recreation and Tourism, Business, Computers, Criminal Justice, Diesel Engines, Education, Early Childhood Education, Human Services, Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance, Heating, Plumbing, Electrical, Medical Assisting, Small Engines, and Welding.
“The main focus was to help the young prospects become confident that ‘College’ is an obtainable goal especially for a hands-on career in the trade areas,” explained Todd Lerke, Engine Specialist instructor.
During Lerke’s workshop, he divided his participants into groups of three, including three of his current college students in each group. The college students gave a personal tour of the shop area. “As a finale, we started and ran a full-size diesel engine and one of our high-performance engines, much to the delight of our audience.”
For Baileyville Police Chief Bob Fitzsimmons, leading the workshop on Criminal Justice was a treat. “We have a good time checking out all of the police gear that we bring down for them,” he said. “It helps open a dialog with them and leads to some interesting questions.”
Importantly, events like Boys Day are an opportunity for workshop leaders to connect with the students on a more individual level. “Sometimes this is the only time they have had to speak with a police officer,” Fitzsimmons said. “For others, it can be the only positive interaction they have witnessed with a police officer. I want them to know that police officers do so much more than write summonses or arrest people.”
Lerke described the benefits of experience-oriented days at the college as being manifold. “I feel it is very important to get young people interested in the trades and more importantly to make them aware that education should be considered beyond a high school education,” Lerke said. “In today’s world, video games, TV and social media tend to absorb much of the time and energy of young people so hopefully this may inspire some interest towards that goal.”
The effort organizers and workshop leaders put in was absolutely worth it, according to Robb. “The workshops were well received. WCCC and the schools who participated definitely want to do it again next year!”