Big Lake Schools 3rd Annual Youth Apprenticeship and Career Fair exposed over 1,400 students in grades 5, 8 and 9-12 to career possibilities that do not require the traditional four-year degree. Held on September 20, the event hosted 38 partners ranging from local manufacturing businesses to health care companies to branches of the U.S. Military.

“There is no one path to success,” Big Lake High School Principal Bob Dockendorf said. “Students deserve to know about the opportunities available to them and how to access those opportunities.”

Around 930 high school students, 240 8th grade students, and 250 5th grade students filtered through the high school’s gymnasium to talk to career experts and learn about available programs and apprenticeships to help them take the next step toward a future career. Students could also interact with tools and parts—from the concept stages to production prototypes.

New this year were outside hands-on activities that let students explore transportation careers in an education trailer, walk around an air ambulance helicopter to learn more about the latest in aviation and clinical advancements, and sit in a Veit excavator.

Minnesota State’s education trailer used truck and flight simulators to show students the high tech side of transportation careers in Automotive Service, Auto Body & Collision, Heavy Equipment, Heavy Truck and Diesel, Marine & Powersports, Professional Truck Driver, Aviation, UAV (drone), and Automotive Engineering, to name a few. Two EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) showed students the state-of-the-art mobile medical equipment inside a Life Link III air medical helicopter.

After the annual event, Big Lake High School’s Work-Based Learning Coordinator Wade Olson follows up with students in their junior year to track interest in any apprenticeship they learned about. As juniors and seniors, students can participate in the high school’s Youth Apprenticeship program that takes career exploration to the next level. Participants receive classroom instruction concurrent with work-based learning to get exposed to a wide variety of workplace departments.

The long-term goal of Big Lake Schools’ career fair and youth apprenticeship program is to help young people discover what they are passionate about and learn how to pursue it, according to Principal Dockendorf. As Minnesota maneuvers its way through a worker shortage, there is an urgency to satisfy workforce needs by attracting young talent into technical fields and helping them become highly skilled in their profession of interest.

Youth Apprenticeship & Career Fair exhibitors included:

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