In this and previous years, the MACCRAY School District has gotten a one-day jump on it all. It’s become practice to reserve the Wednesday before the start of the break as a day for students to travel to job-shadowing opportunities or make visits to postsecondary schools.
This year featured a new twist. Tyler Loe was among a handful of students who had to look no farther than the high school building to explore the career choice he’s considering.
“The problem-solving. The doing something different,” said the MACCRAY senior when asked what he liked most about a possible career as an electrician.
He had a firsthand opportunity to look at the career thanks to the $60 million construction project taking place on the MACCRAY campus. School Superintendent Sherri Broderius realized that the work taking place on campus provided a unique opportunity for students, and reached out to contractors at the site.
The onsite mentor for Loe was John Hirman, who graduated from MACCRAY in 2011. He said he never expected to step foot back in the building. Now, he spends his days there as an electrician with Willmar Electric. He is a foreman on a team that will be pulling 256 miles of new wiring through the building as part of the installation of power, fire, lighting and security systems.
There was no job-shadowing opportunity when Hirman was a student. A family friend who was an electrician and his own love for wiring audio speakers in cars led Hirman to his current occupation, he said. He earned an electrical engineering degree at North Dakota State University. He told Loe that his career with Willmar Electric provides him with the right combination of hands-on work along with the science and problem-solving he enjoys.
Loe said he got interested in electrical work while helping with a home remodeling project. The time he spent with Hirman opened his eyes to all the opportunities that commercial electrical works provides, and could very well help shape his future plans, he told Hirman and High School Principal Judd Wheatley as they met on the career day.
Wheatley said he was a “late bloomer” when it came to deciding on a career choice. He was in his 20s when he realized that education was his passion. He said he feels it’s important to give young people opportunities to explore the waters and discover what’s best for them.
Laura Bristle, school counselor, said the credit for the annual career day and growing emphasis on helping students explore career opportunities belongs to her predecessors. She feels blessed for it. She was an English teacher at the school when she decided to earn her degree to become a counselor. She chose to become a counselor because she loves working with students on making career choices, she said.
The pandemic interrupted things last year, but this year all of the 49 seniors are free to test the waters. One student traveled to Blue Earth County to job shadow a district judge. Another went to an equine veterinary clinic. Many used the day to visit the two- and four-year postsecondary schools they are interested in attending.
Earlier in the month, 17 students explored manufacturing facilities in the area. Bristle said students have gone to events to learn about careers in agriculture. Some have participated in a program helping develop entrepreneurialism in young people.
The emphasis for years had been to encourage students to get four-year degrees, but that is changing, according to Bristle and Wheatley. There is a growing awareness of the opportunities — and needs — in the trades, and schools are doing more to help students explore those opportunities as well, they said.
While many of his classmates traveled to work sites and colleges miles away from MACCRAY, Loe’s decision to job shadow on the MACCRAY campus could ultimately open up lots of travel opportunities for him should he become a commercial electrician. Hirman, his mentor for the day, told him that his career with Willmar Electric offers opportunities for travel to projects in the U.S. and Canada as well as overseas. In fact, he was expecting to be on a project in Paris, France, until he took on the MACCRAY project.