The time is ripe in high school for students to think about their next steps after graduation. In the Wenatchee Valley, students get the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes with local businesses to “test drive” career paths, thanks to partnerships between the Wenatchee School District, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations through Wenatchee Learns Connect.
Diana Haglund coordinates the program, which recently brought students to fruit-producer Stemilt for an event in a series called Careers After School.
“Students get to test drive a career. They get to see what kind of skills and training are needed. It also gives them a sense of what the world of work looks like,” Haglund said.
At the event in March, about 20 students spent a couple of hours touring the production facilities, server room and quality control room at Stemilt, which grows, packs, ships and markets fresh apples, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots to stores all over the world.
Michael Kenny, a student at Wenatchee High School, most enjoyed seeing the server room. “It was great to be able to get hands on information, because it’s different than just studying the topic, because you’re actually there and you get to experience it first-hand.” Kenny wants to study information technology in college, and he said his time at Stemilt helped him think about his future career options.
Students also talked with Stemilt employees about their career experiences, helping students get tangible ideas for their futures.
The event “allows the students to be able to see career choices that are in Wenatchee Valley,” said Jason Bonwell, IT System Engineer at Stemilt, who showed the students the server room.
Careers After School is one of several programs that Wenatchee Learns puts together each year to help students explore possible paths they can choose after high school. The partnerships that Wenatchee Learns builds between schools and the community helps students understand careers that are available to them and the education they need to pursue to get ready for those careers.
Watching students get excited about what they are learning is one of the best parts of events like Careers After School, Haglund said. “The ah-ha moments that happen during these events…you can’t beat that.
“We grow fruit, but we also grow tremendous talent, and there’s a lot of support from the community to make that happen.”