Program exposes students to local opportunities

While many graduating seniors have their next step already in place, a local group is trying to get younger students thinking about their post-graduation pathways earlier.

A busload of area high school sophomores and their parents got a unique look at college and career options this week by taking part in the Dayton STEM-Workforce Program, which exposes students to local opportunities.

Close to a dozen students each from Stebbins and Springboro high schools were picked up by charter bus and taken to Wright State University to learn about degree options. Then they traveled to Miami Valley Hospital and Reynolds & Reynolds for presentations on careers.

“A lot of kids want to get out (of Dayton), because they don’t know what’s here. So we’re trying to show them what’s here,” said Ron Adler, vice president of the STEM-Workforce Program. “Why go somewhere else?”

Adler said he originally hoped to focus on high school seniors, but on advice from the schools switched to sophomores. He said this allows them to consider what classes to take before they even get to college.

At Wright State, students heard presentations from the college of business and the college of engineering and computer science. Cindy Oakley, academic affairs coordinator at the college of engineering, said the dean explained WSU’s academic programs and subsequent career paths, emphasizing how many jobs are waiting for graduates in those fields.

Oakley said Tuesday’s program was unique, and it could get kids thinking about career options earlier, including jobs they’re not familiar with.

“I think that’s essential,” she said. “I think anytime students are exposed to the lesser-known career paths, it gives them a broader view of what’s out there.”

Variety of jobs

At Reynolds & Reynolds, students got a tour of the company’s high-tech Customer Center. Manager Bill McCarty explained the company’s work with auto dealerships, touching on the fact that Reynolds needs employees in everything from programming and product development to finance to graphic arts and marketing.

Reynolds spokesman Tom Schwartz said the company’s annual batch of 30 college interns starts next week.

“From our side, we like to expose the kinds of job roles that we have to students,” Schwartz said. “It’s trying to get behind the front door, and understand what’s really going on in there.”

While Adler’s primary focus is on science, technology, engineering and math jobs, he said the presentation at Premier Health and Miami Valley Hospital opened some students’ eyes.

“People think all Premier needs is doctors and nurses, but they told the students (Premier) has a huge workforce appetite,” Adler said.

That stuck with Stebbins sophomore Cameron Berner, who hopes to go into some type of engineering field.

“What stood out most to me was the amount of job opportunities in the Dayton region for kids coming out of college,” Berner said.

‘Good messages’

His father, Benjamin Berner, focused on a comment from Reynolds & Reynolds’ VP of software support. Willie Daughters told the students that Reynolds is always looking for graduates to do programming and coding, but they may look at anyone who earned a degree, because it shows they are able to learn and “to stick it out through the hard stuff.”

“I think those were good messages for the kids to hear today,” Benjamin Berner said. “It’s triggering my son and everybody else on that bus to think about what’s next. They have two years of high school left, but those years will go quick, and they have to start making decisions.”

Adler said this new high school tour ties in with the STEM-Workforce Program’s other efforts — a scholarship program for existing WSU and Sinclair students, aligned to local workforce needs, and an effort to link STEM college students to partner companies via internships and job shadows.

“We’re going to get some feedback (on the high school tour), do some surveying of the students and schools and businesses, and if it looks good, we’ll do this on an ongoing basis,” Adler said. “I think it’s good for the students, good for businesses and good for Dayton.”

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