PCDC Invests in Future Workers With New Program

11 Apr 2016

One student’s eyes lit up when she asked questions about starting a bakery. Another student showed an interest in a future writing career and was curious about college choices.


The students were among 45 high school freshman from Loomis, Bertrand and Axtell, who attended a Connecting the Dots career exploration event at the Phelps County Ag Center on March 30.


Connecting the Dots is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension program that has been offered to high school students across Nebraska. It is designed to help teens learn more about careers of interest and how to “connect the dots” from ninth grade through postsecondary study to the workplace.


Thanks to a $2,000 sponsorship and staff support from the Phelps County Development Corporation, the program made its way to Phelps County.


PCDC Program Coordinator Alli Donohue helped recruit local employers to visit with the students about careers in their areas of interest.


Donohue said the most important outcome of this event was to inspire and recruit students by hearing “from successful professionals who chose to have their careers in Phelps County.”


Connecting the Dots begins for students prior to the event when they take a Kuder career assessment survey, which helps them identify career clusters that are suited to their unique talents and interests. At the event, students are given education cards of various levels, including high school dropouts, high school graduates, community college graduates, bachelor’s degrees or advanced degrees. The students then must determine whether they would be able to obtain their career choice with that education.


About 20 community volunteers representing careers in each of the six career clusters volunteered to speak to students about the various jobs available, educational requirements and potential demand for those jobs. Connecting the Dots provides students with more than 800 job opportunity fact sheets that explain various jobs ranging from an entry-level cashier to jobs requiring specific advanced degrees.


At the end of the session, the local employers gave students advice for the future. Tips included being aware that choices made as a teen-ager, including social media posts, can impact a future career; to gain work experience and be involved in the community as a teen; to build relationships with teachers, coaches and others who may help open doors to future jobs and to not be afraid to pursue their dreams.


In surveys collected after the event, students said they learned that they could find internships or job shadowing opportunities to help them learn more about future careers, that there are different paths to get to the same career and how many years of college are required for different careers.


“I have a lot more opportunities than I thought,” one student said. “You might not know exactly what you want to do, so keep an open mind,” another commented.


Donohue said it was important for students to learn about the various options for achieving a career goal and that some degrees give them more options than others.


“I also love that many of them are considering adding value to our communities by returning and sharing their talents here in Phelps County,” Donohue said.


This program was intended to complement the April 6 Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce career fair that brought sophomores from a wider area to Holdrege to introduce them to Phelps County employers and careers.


By Kristine Jacobson for PCDC