Job shadowing is a good way for students to better understand the careers in which they are interested.
For that reason, Kris Whitaker, School to Work Program coordinator for the Warren-Forest Higher Education Council, devised a way to have approximately 110 students job shadow at 12 area businesses.
The job shadows, who were at the job sites on Oct. 20 and 21, were to ask questions beyond the usual "what do you do?" In the abbreviated shadow time of and hour and an half, Whitaker asked the businesses to cover topics such as education requirements, salary, benefits, job market forecast, background of the company and product lines.
"The impact of even a shortened program as this one is, is tremendous," Whitaker said. "Job shadowing gives the student an idea of what the job entails, what the educational requirements are, job forecasting and salary information. Many times a student will shadow in a particular field of interest to them, only to find out that this is not the career for them. Just think of the time and money that is saved for both the student and the parent."
Whitaker noted that some students are unable to participate in longer job shadow programs due to transportation issues. This larger scale job shadow program targeted some of those students.
At the Allegheny National Forest headquarters, two groups of students were educated on the finer points of working for the federal government. One group learned about the work of a forester while others heard about the position of engineer.
On the engineering, Amy Lesher, facilities engineer for the ANF, told the students about the two different avenues for engineers at the U.S. Forest Service. One avenue she described as a managerial position in which the engineer oversees projects and develops budgets. A forest engineer, Lesher said, is more hands-on with projects.
With the help of Kathy Mohney, spokesperson for the ANF, the students were informed on programs through the U.S Forest Service where students can be employed and later obtain jobs after college.
Mohney said the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) allows college students to combine academic studies with on-the-job experience.
There is also the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), which gives the student work experience directly related to their field of study. As a result, the student who completes the SCEP may be non-competitively converted to career with the U.S. Forest Service.
"It's a great program," Lesher said. "You don't have to worry about the resume and that stuff when you graduate."
Although the students were faced with a lot of information in a short period of time, Whitaker said the opportunity has a big impact.
"I believe that shadowing and career day activities do have an impact on the students. I have been the School to Work coordinator for the past ten years and it seems to me that the students are becoming more focused on specific jobs," she said.
When she began working in career education, Whitaker recalled, students were stuck in the "I want to be a doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher" mindset.
"Today, the students are exploring areas that were unheard of even five years ago," she said. "I attribute a lot of that to several opportunities that they now have in school. For example, the Senior Graduation Project ensures that they complete an interest profiler and research three careers. They may also job shadow in one or more of those career areas. They attend career day activities that provide a wealth of knowledge regarding careers available in Warren County and the rest of the country. I feel that our current students are more informed than students were eight to ten years ago."
Several of the students who took part in the job shadow used program to satisfied a portion of their graduation project.
In addition to the ANF, other businesses and employers who took part in the job shadow program included: Aramark, Betts Industries, Times Observer, Thorne's BiLo, Duhring Resources, Hairworks, Radio Partners, Lewis Funeral Home, Rouse Estates, Calvert Insurance and EmergyCare.