Middle school students spend a day on the job

June 5, 2012


It’s never too early to think about the future, a group of eighth-graders recently learned.

New this year, a class of Martinsville Middle School students participated in a day of job shadowing at local businesses to expose them to different careers. The students in Helen Howell’s entrepreneurship class spent the day in such places as a baker’s kitchen, a veterinary clinic and at Philpott Lake.

Candace Foster and Erickah Millner shadowed attorney Robert Williams of the law firm Williams, Luck & Williams. He also is vice chairman of the Martinsville School Board.

“We went to court with him and got to see him argue a case,” Candace said. “It’s pretty different from how they glamorize it on TV. I learned that you have to look at things from different perspectives. Looking at it from the easiest way isn’t always the way it will work out.”

Seeing how much goes into preparing a case showed Candace that the career is not for her.

“I changed my mind about wanting to be a lawyer. It’s a lot of hard work and time,” she said.

Erickah agreed the experience was a lot different from what she sees on “Law and Order,” but she still would like to pursue a career in law, probably divorce or family law.

Such reality checks are an important part of choosing the right career, Howell said.

“It’s OK to change your mind,” she said, but it is better to do it at a young age, before wasting time and money pursuing a career path that doesn’t pan out.

When older students do internships, Howell said, they sometimes pick career areas that “from the outside, might look very glamorous, but then they find out it’s not what they thought it would be.”

In preparation for the job shadowing, students learned skills such as preparing a résumé and how to conduct themselves in a job interview.

Howell had them choose a career based on their interests and research it before being matched with a job shadow site. Students looked at working conditions, salary range, education requirements and the future job outlook, so that hopefully they do not “go to school for four years and spend all this money, and then find out the job doesn’t exist anymore,” Howell said.

Eighth-grader Olivia Buck called her experience “amazing” and said she enjoyed making a corsage out of silk flowers during her day at Bryant-Everett Florist.

“I had an interest in design before and I was very interested today,” she said after the job shadowing. “The people there were very nice. The floral arrangements they made were extraordinary.”

One thing Olivia learned about the working world is to “Dress proper, so the first impression is a good impression.”

Darnell Mitchell and Bryan Rucker got some hands-on experience at the Patrick Henry Community College motorsports facility.

“First we took a tour of the building. It was like a hospital because it was so clean inside and cold,” Darnell said. The two saw “brand-new cars that they had just got done building” and sat in on a class in which students were learning to build shocks. Then, “We came back and put the whole right side of a NASCAR car on — the front fender, back fender and door panel. It was very exciting, very nice.”

Darnell said he was surprised to learn that motorsports careers are closer to mechanical engineering than a stereotypical mechanic, and college is required.

“I was already thinking of doing it. This made me want to do it even more, doing hands-on activities,” he said.

Overall, Howell said, the job shadowing was “really, really good” for students. “Hopefully we can build on this.”

(Kim Barto is the community outreach and grants coordinator for the Martinsville Schools.)


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