Program offers teens glimpse of training, job options in state

Posted: Tuesday, October 07, 2003

About 10 students from all around Alaska are on the Kenai Peninsula for two weeks of career exploration.

The high-schoolers from the Chugach, Lake and Peninsula, Nome, Bering Straits and Craig school districts spent last week job shadowing workers in a handful of key Alaska industries represented on the peninsula. This week, they will start studying the path to entering those fields during a visit to the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Sew-ard.

The two-week educational trip is the pilot of Phase 3-plus Career Ex-Prep, a program developed by the Alaska Process Industries Career Consortium, the Anchorage House and the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, in conjunction with the state's Quality Schools Coalition.

Several school districts across the state are part of the Alaska Quality Schools Coalition, which provides a curriculum of life skills and career education preparation, explained Colleen Ward, who is acting as project manager for APICC.

Ward explained that the Quality Schools program in-cludes four phases of training: service learning; personal, social and life skills; career development; and leadership.

Ex-Prep, which stands for exploration and preparation, is an offshoot of those phases, offering students a hands-on opportunity to assess their interests, learn about career options in Alaska and find the resources they need for future training.

Though the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District currently is not participating in the program, program developers chose the peninsula because of the willingness of employers to work with youth, Ward said.

And, she added, "For some rural students, Kenai may be more comfortable than Anchor-age, yet it offers many of the same training options Anchorage off-ers."

A look at training opportunities such as Kenai Peninsula College and AVTEC are part of the program, Ward said.

But the biggest part is the exploration of the most significant industries in the state: health care; transportation, construction and information technology; and seafood, hospitality and tourism.

To that end, students spent last week job shadowing at businesses in those fields.

Last Monday, the group visited Central Peninsula General Hos-pital, the MediCenter in Kenai and CPGH Physical, exploring careers in health care.

Last Tuesday, students spent time at Mike PE Consulting, Spenard Builders Supply and TDS Construction and Creative Design looking into jobs in construction.

They toured Agrium, Tesoro and ConocoPhillips on Wednesday to look at process industries, which Ward called a "sister industry" to construction.

Thursday they hit the Alaska Flying Network, Kenai Control Tower and Kenai Automated Flight Services to explore transportation and the Aspen Hotel for a look at tourism.

"We've had incredible hosting," Ward said. "These job sites have treated the students very well and provided an enriching opportunity and good information about career options."

The students agreed.

"(I've enjoyed) being able to go through people's jobs, watch them do what they do and learn more about what they do," said Chester Hornberger of New Halen.

"(I like) the variety of experiences we get to go through every day," added Teresa Totemoff, a 16-year-old senior from Tatitlek. "You have to be open-minded when you're out job exploring. I've enjoyed every second."

Over the weekend, students completed evaluations of their visits and interests and picked a field for further exploration, Ward said. They are taking short classes at AVTEC this week to get a head start in the field.

But, some students said, it won't be easy. In fact, rather than narrowing choices, Totemoff said the job shadowing has opened her eyes to even more possibilities available in Alaska.

"Before I came here, I always wanted to be a nurse," she said Thursday, after touring the Alaska Flying Network facility with owner Chip Versaw.

"This week, I went from wanting to be a nurse to a designer to an operator in process technology. Now today, this is very interesting, too. I don't know what to choose."

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