Career Cafe Middle School Students Preparing for Their Future

Earlier this month, around 60 eighth graders from Gahanna Middle School East, Middle School South and Middle School West attended "Career Cafes" held at their schools. A Career Cafe is an opportunity for students in Gahanna schools to meet professionals from the community and learn about their careers. This time, students chose to learn more about careers in construction and architecture from employees of Corna Kokosing Construction and Triad Architects. The companies are currently working on the development of the new Lincoln Elementary school.

Students spent the first 10 minutes attempting to build a structure out of five marshmallows, 30 uncooked spaghetti noodles, tape and a paper bag. Students leaped at the chance to build something and took a variety of creative approaches, such as tearing the marshmallows into smaller pieces for additional corner support. The students said they learned to appreciate the challenge of completing a task with limited resources, the importance of communication and the power of a strong foundation.

After completing the construction project, the teams told the students a little more about their careers, beginning with Megan Stuart, an architect at Triad Architects. She explained that architecture is essentially taking ideas for a structure and turning those ideas into drawings for a construction team to follow.

Corna Kokosing’s Project Manager Jamie Srbljan and Business Development Manager Matt Ference spoke about the vast array of career paths in construction from engineers and welders to project managers and masons. They touched on the fact that not all careers in the industry require a college degree and that there is a huge demand for laborers as baby boomers retire. Srbljan said one of the coolest aspects of her job is driving around town, looking at a building, and thinking, “wow, I helped create that.”

Students from all three middle schools were very engaged and asked many questions related to the speakers' careers. The students were open to finding out about different career paths and were curious about what goes into new builds, renovations and demolition.

“We’ve found that a lot of the time, high school kids have already made up their minds to an extent regarding their career path,” said Ference. “For that reason, we’ve started getting into middle schools to intrigue them about different paths they can take in the industry.”

In fact, the district holds Career Cafés for students as young as fifth grade, giving them a broad glimpse of careers in different industries. The middle school Career Cafés are a little more focused, bringing in speakers from different industries to talk about how educational interest areas can lead to specific careers. By high school, the district offers a deeper exploration of jobs through mentorships and internships.

“We’d love to expand Career Cafés to parents,” said Sharon Tomko, community relations and outreach coordinator. “It’s important to educate parents on the opportunities that are out there. For example, some healthcare companies offer work right out of high school and will pay for the employee’s nursing education if they work for them for ‘x’ number of years. It gives recent graduates a chance to get work experience and to figure out if they are in an industry they enjoy.”

Expect to see more Career Cafés in the future as they become a fundamental part of Gahanna’s career-focused curriculum.

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