MONTROSE - Hammering, welding, imaging and even the best paper airplane were part of a final phase of experiences for area eighth and ninth graders Tuesday morning.
At the Lee County Career Advantage Center in Montrose, about a 130 students from all three county public schools participated in a capstone session where seven different industries and organizations gave hands-on demonstrations to students, including Lee County Sheriff's office, Roquette, Iowa Fertilizer Plant, SCC, Lee County Conservation and more.
The students engaged in three different sessions over a month aimed at opening their eyes to future careers right here in southeast Iowa.
Don Weiss, the curriculum director at the center said the ambition is to open the students eyes to what is happening locally in terms of career and career technology.
"We want to make the kids aware of all the career opportunities that are available in southeast Iowa so they don't feel like to succeed they have to run off to Cedar Rapids or Des Moines. There are plenty of career opportunities right here," he said.
'There are advantages to living here. We dont' have the traffic, cost-of-living is less, and it's a lot more of a relaxed experience."
He said this is just the first step in the evolution of the center. Students need to see the different things that are taking place. Then the 10th-12th grade students will eventually learn the skills necessary to take those local jobs.
"I suspect most of these kids and most of thesee parents drive up and down (Highway) 61 all the time and have no idea of the different kinds of industries that are happening 200 feet of that highway doing cutting-edge stuff," Weiss said.
OCI Iowa Fertilizer was on hand showing thermal imaging that is used to help keep the plant safe.
John Garrison, an employee with the OCI safety team, showed students imaging cameras that are used to detect potential leaks at the Wever facility.
"We use this to find hot spots on our refractor a lot. You can look for different leaks, and valves that aren't working corectly. But for the most part we look for refractor damage," Garrison said.
"I'm just engaging with them on how this works. The tech we use is very cool and the job we do is pretty interesting. We just make sure the plant is safe. It's our job to make sure the plant doesn't blow up.
Emily Benjamin, Vice President of Economic Development for Lee County Economic Development Group, which houses the center, said groups have ranged from 150 students to 50 students.
"We think about 120 is a good number and has a lot of energy," she said.
The students enjoy being split into different groups which allows them to interract with other district kids in the two-hour phases.
"They are also doing curriculum in the classroom at their schools," Benjamin said. 'That supplements and supports what we're doing here."
The students work with IowaWorks to be color-coded based on interests, so they know coming into the sessions what group they will be working in.
Next year plans incliude building out the program so the 9th-11th grade experience is more developed.
"Health Sciences and Industrial Tech and Manufacturing will likely have specialty academy programs next year," Benjamin said.
The students on Tuesday were completing the third or hands-on phase of their three-session curriculum.
Greg Smith, the center's Chief Engagement Strategist, said he works with industries to involve them in how the programs will impact those partners in the future.
"We're already working with SCC to do some academies here. We expect to put in a computer science program and run those kinds of skills. We also want to create a makers space in here so kids can put their hands on robots and those kinds of things. That's the direction we're going," Smith said.
He said plans are also being developed to integrate adult programming to help adults who want to get back to work.
"Even people that are looking for work or want to be retrained. We're talking about that as well. It's not just about kids," Smith said.
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