Some high schoolers are getting the chance to see if the professions they think they want to go into are really what they enjoy.
Through the Work Based Learning Program, students from all six of the county's high schools are out in the field in Cherokee County and the metro Atlanta area, observing orthopedists, watching surgeries at and working in pharmacies, among others.
“We’ve had kids go in and do interior design in Atlanta just because they know of a business or had a contact or one of our people had a contact,” said Pat Kearns, director of Academic Standards, Professional/Staff Development and Career Pathways for the . “We go all over.”
Last year, 286 high school students, most of them seniors, participated in the program. The most popular field was medical, and Lisa Carroll, career pathways facilitator at , said that between rotations at the hospital and Pinnacle Orthopedics, the 42 available slots are filled quickly.
“We actually want to get some other healthcare programs in the area on board with us,” Carroll said.
Students who go to Northside Hospital-Cherokee spend a week in each area of the hospital, such as surgery, emergency room, radiology, ultrasounds and regular patient care. Those who are assigned to Pinnacle Orthopedics have three-week stints.
“Let’s say they’ve taken healthcare science classes and they think they want to go into a career in healthcare science,” Carroll said. “They get to rotate through the different departments before they go to college and decide what they want to major in.”
Career Pathways is offered throughout the Cherokee system, including at Etowah High School in Woodstock.
Other occupations available through the program include public safety, during which students ride along with police officers; business and marketing education; family and consumer science; culinary arts; teacher education; early childhood education; video broadcast; automotive; engineering; and architecture drawing and design.
“It’s a great program to give them the hands-on experience,” Carroll said. “It helps them see (what they want to do).”
While the program confirms to some students that they have, in fact, chosen a field that interests them, it shows others that perhaps they actually aren’t as interested in a specific profession as they thought they were.
“It’s like with the teaching profession,” Carroll said. “They say, ‘Oh, I want to be an elementary school teacher,’ and then they go and spend time with an elementary school teacher and say, ‘I can’t do this all day long.’ It is a great opportunity to help them figure out what they don’t want to do, too.”
The program has had several success stories, too. Carroll said Eric Alexander, a 2011 graduate of , worked with Southern Crane and Rigging in . The company gave him a $60,000 college scholarship to pursue his education in transportation and logistics and a full time job.
“Opportunities like that do exist,” Carroll said. “It was just a great opportunity he came upon.”
And, a local insurance agent was so impressed with a student that she hired her for the summer and sponsored her to get her insurance license.
“It’s a great way for them to get their foot in the door,” she said.
To be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, be on track to graduate on time, and have taken or be taking career technical or agricultural education classes.