A recent event at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College (Wadena, Minn.) is just one component of an overall strategy by the college to begin to attract elementary and high school students to careers in electrical line work, electrical technology and even owning their own electrical contracting businesses.
In late February, approximately 80 sixth graders from a local school district visited the college to learn about a variety of technical programs. The students are all participants in Metier, which is a Region V National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) grant-funded experiential learning program in the state that encourages students to explore career options that interest them.
"The event came about as a result of some teachers involved in Metier who were teaching a unit on electricity," said Holly Doyle, academic dean of the Wadena campus. "They wanted to know if we would partner with them and arrange to have their students come in for some hands-on learning experience related to careers in the electrical field."
The idea excited Doyle not only for academic and professional reasons, but also for personal reasons.
"I am the wife of a fourth-generation electrician, so the profession is not new to me," she said.
In fact, Doyle's father-in-law agreed to come in and speak to the students on the ins and outs of running their own electrical contracting businesses.
The Metier teachers had also wanted to bring seventh graders to the event.
"Unfortunately, though, because of the size of our technical program, we weren't able to bring in that many students at one time and still be able to provide hands-on experience," Doyle said. "However, we hope to have another program in the future for the other students who weren't able to attend."
Beyond these on-site hands-on events, the college also has a director of collaboration, who focuses on maintaining ties with K–12 school districts in the region. And, according to Doyle, the program has received some financial support to sponsor camps for these students.
"We also encourage our faculty to visit classrooms in the schools when they are invited," she said. "They do short presentations on careers in the electrical field and then answer questions from students. In fact, our electrical technology instructor was also a contractor himself, so he knows a lot about different career opportunities."
Response to the programs has been encouraging, and Doyle anticipates increasing the college's involvement even more in the future.