By CATHERINE W. IDZERDA
JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Sarah Schultz, 11, pulled the welding helmet over her pink hair.
In Franklin Middle School’s technical education room, a similarly garbed high-school student was waiting to help Sarah complete her first weld.
Franklin Middle School recently held a College and Career Readiness Day to expose students to life’s possibilities and to show them how their school work relates to the real world.
“Middle school students don’t know what they want to be yet,” Julie Konstanz, a school counselor, told the Janesville Gazette. “They might have some ideas, but they tend to gravitate to the things they know.”
And by “things they know,” Konstanz means things their parents do and the jobs they see every day.
Speakers at the event represented 60 different occupations, ranging from dog trainer to welder, chef to pastor and police officer to dentist.
Students were given surveys to gauge their interests before the event. Using that information, organizers tried to track students into presentations that would interest them the most.
Organizers also tried to find jobs in each of the 16 career clusters such as human services; education and training; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and architecture and construction.
That last category is probably why Sarah found herself in the welding demonstration.
“I want to be an architect,” she said after finishing her first weld.
The three high school students acting as instructors didn’t know what they wanted to be in middle school. But once they began to take courses in high school, the choices became clear, they said.
“There are always going to be welding jobs,” said Garret Nastali, 17. “If a bridge needs a weld, they can’t outsource that to China.”
Salaries for welders range from about $28,000 to $51,000, a technical-education instructor at Parker told the students.
Konstanz said bringing the high school welders to career day was an especially good way to show students that school matters. Take algebra and geometry for example.
“You really need it for problem-solving,” said Aidan Brown, 17.
His classmates Garret Nastali and Carlton Ross, both 17, agreed.
If it seems strange to be taking career advice from 17-year-olds, consider this: Two of the boys are already taking classes toward their welding certificates at Blackhawk Technical College.
Ross will graduate from Parker High School in June. He’ll finish his welding certificate next fall, graduating in December.
At 18, he’ll be starting his career.