The shiny robot fashioned of sheet metal carried an important message for the crowd of Cherry Creek High School students who passed through the school's hallways on Oct. 15
The hand-crafted creation that loomed over one of the dozens of tables set up in the activities hallway on a sunny Thursday afternoon looked to be transported from a science fiction story. Decked in a gleaming top hat and industrial work gloves, the metal man was a cross between the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" and an android from the stories of Isaac Asimov.
For many students who stopped to gaze at the hand-crafted creation during the school's inaugural Career Fair, the piece was also a hint of a promising potential career. The robot was part of the display at a booth set up by representatives from the Sheet Metal Workers union, one of the more than 20 vendors at the fair that represented professional trades, technical colleges and other career options.
David Engel, a member of the Sheet Metal Workers union, took a break from talking to students to explain the organization's presence at the event.
"This is an investment in my future," said Engel, adding that the prospect of finding future sheet metal workers was a boon to students and professionals alike. "I retire in 30 years. We're looking for the next generation of workers."
Spreading that message was what the school's debut Career Fair was all about. Engel and his colleagues joined representatives from a wide range of industries to offer students details about a wealth of promising careers. Bankers and bus drivers joined soldiers and pilots to speak to students about potential paths after graduation. Representatives from trade schools, community colleges and the district's Career and Technical Education program were also on hand to offer guidance.
It was all designed to offer insights for students looking for different routes after graduation, pathways that could eventually lead to high-paying, rewarding careers.
"We wanted to make sure that we provide equitable opportunities and information to all kids with all interests," said CCHS English teacher Michael Mazenko, who helped organize the event. "We've traditionally been focused on college and bachelor's degrees, but there are so many opportunities that our students simply don't know about."
Mazenko specifically cited opportunities in trades, certificate programs, technical schools and skilled labor, areas that hold plenty of promise for viable, long-term careers. The Career Fair, sponsored through the school's Collaborative Action Through Research Equity (CARE) team, served as an opportunity to connect students with those promising opportunities.
"We thought it was important to spread the message," Mazenko said. "For many, many years, we've done a College Fair. It made us think, 'Why not a Career Fair?'"
|Bankers and bus drivers joined soldiers and pilots to speak to students about potential paths after graduation.|
That's not to say colleges were absent during the event, which Mazenko hopes to make an annual event. Representatives from Red Rocks Community College, Arapahoe Community College, Pickens Technical Institute and other institutions were present to offer details about degree programs. They joined vendors from plumbers' associations, 1stBank and the Shades of Blue aviation program to offer a simple message: Students with a wide range of skills and interests can find a valuable professional pathway after high school. A representative from the Department of Labor was also present to detail professional trends and economic needs in Colorado and beyond. Students from Cherry Creek High School's DECA club were also available to spread the word about taking the first steps to become an entrepreneur.
"One of the important things that we'd like to do is make kids aware of costs and opportunities. What are the areas of the economy that are going to be needing workers? We'd like the reps to tell kids these things," Mazenko said. "We really want to excite kids and get them interested in fields that they may not have considered if they thought that after high school they'd automatically go to college."
Between showing off the metal robot built by trade professionals and offering details about average salaries for skilled sheet metal workers, Engel was quick to support that message.
"A four-year degree is the right choice for some people. Others do better with different opportunities," Engel said, pointing to his own career as a perfect example of the latter.