Navigating a career path

February 15, 2023

Navigating a career path

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

SHELBY — Oceana County high school juniors got a close-up look at career and education options available after graduation during the Oceana College Access Network’s College and Career Fair Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the Shelby High School gym.

Wednesday’s college and career fair was Oceana CAN’s eighth annual event, said Network Coordinator Alyssa Merten. The OCAN organization has also existed for eight years, “pulling partners together in the community to increase the number of people who go to college or attain a credential after high school.”

“Our students need this. They need interaction with the community, and they also need to know that community members believe in them.”

About 82 businesses, training centers, colleges and organizations participated in this year’s event, which is up from last year’s turnout of around 55.

Students from Shelby, Hart, Pentwater and Walkerville tour through the gym and interact with academic, military and career representatives.

“It’s mostly juniors with a couple seniors as well,” said Merten. “It’s about 220 students that come through.” Each group of students spent 45 minutes at the fair, talking to the adults. Shelby and Pentwater students went through the fair first, and then Hart and Walkerville students toured. 

The event is always held at Shelby, because the school has the largest gym to accommodate the crowds, said Merten.

“The idea is to help students understand what different types of careers are out there in the community, because oftentimes students don’t know what types of jobs are out there. It’s a great opportunity for the community to engage with students and help them think through what their path is after high school.”

Most of the businesses involved are locally-based or have local ties. “Almost all of them are in Oceana County or serve Oceana County,” said Merten.

“By having the colleges, careers and training centers all together, we want to help the students make the connection of what type of training is needed for some of these careers and where you can get that training. So, they’re all in one room, all in one space. 

“When we say college, we’re talking about all post-secondary education, so everything from short-term certificate programs all the way to apprenticeships to skilled trades training to two-year degrees, four-year degrees and beyond. So, we have unions here; we have businesses; and we have colleges representing some careers. There is just a whole wide array of folks here.

“The feedback from the first seven years has been really positive from students,” said Merten. “They really get a lot out of this. Once senior year happens, things happen really fast.

“I think the businesses are really starting to understand the interactive components of having a booth and interacting with students and the hands-on aspects of really helping them understand what they do day-to-day.”

Booth participants took a little break to meet in the school library, enjoying a lunch prepared by the Shelby Public Schools Food Service Program. “It provides us an opportunity to come together and talk a little bit about our vision and mission. Shelby’s food service is phenomenal.”

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