Children are asked beginning at a young age a not-so-simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Aspirations of doctors, lawyers, firefighters and superheroes are commonly heard, but many young people’s dreams grow as they do.
The five careers that most interest teens today reflect the robust industries in Gainesville and Hall County, and many local students get to try their hand at them through the Work-Based Learning program and other internships.
The single largest career field of interest to local teens today is health care.
“I see a lot of our students interested in the health care industry,” said Holli Howard, Work-Based Learning coordinator for Chestatee High School. “That seems to be what the majority are interested in. And we have a great health care program here, so they are exposed to those kinds of careers that are available.”
Helen Perry, Work-Based Learning coordinator for Gainesville High School, agreed health care is “No. 1.”
“Some students are interested in being physicians, nurses, physical therapists,” Perry said. “But I have quite a few that are interested in being a dental hygienist or a dentist.”
Chestatee student Emily Martinez interns at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
“I shadow techs and nurses, and I do vital signs. I help clean patients and do all the little things they may need me to do if they’re running behind,” said Martinez, who wants to become a nurse practitioner. “I really like to do vital signs, because I get to interact with the patients.”
Both Perry and Howard agree education is the next most popular career aspiration among high school students.
“Quite a few are interested in education,” Perry said. “Education and child care, I would say, is second to health care.”
Howard said Chestatee partners with local elementary schools and some middle schools to give students experience working with and teaching small children.
Senior Abigail Xander is interested in special education. She works with special education students at her school and at nearby Chestatee Academy.
“I worked with a class called peer facilitation, and we’re supposed to help special ed kids get more involved with other kids at the school,” she said. “We took them on field trips, helped the teachers, read to them and helped them with their homework. It just made me want to do this.”
Fellow senior Kari Heard interned at Joyland Child Development Center in Gainesville last year and was hired as a paid intern this year.
“I started interning there and worked with the older kids in elementary school,” she said. “I helped them with their homework after school, and now I work there.”
Howard said the business and marketing industry is also popular with high school students today.
“I think because it’s broad and has a lot of opportunities for students,” she said. “They find that to be interesting.”
“Whether it’s being an entrepreneur or going into accounting, I would say that’s in the top three,” she said.
Mikey Petraroi, a senior at Chestatee, is an intern at Bull and Bull Certified Public Accountants in Gainesville.
“Currently, we’re working on the Hall County audit,” Petraroi said last week. “I help fill out spreadsheets on Excel and help with personal tax returns and corporate tax returns. Wherever they need me to help out. I’ve been really interested in accounting lately, and that’s why I pursued this.”
Perry said she sees growing interest in other areas of business, too, including real estate and logistics.
“I was surprised to hear so many interested in the logistics area, but you know we’ve got quite a few of those logistics companies here, and they all seem to do very well,” she said. “That’s probably part of that, too.”
Howard said engineering “is on the rise.”
“We’re trying to expose our students to the different types of engineering and what that really means,” she said. “We’ve partnered with some companies in the community to get some exposure there.”
Perry agreed, saying she has a few students interested in different types of engineering.
“I have one student who is thinking he wants to major in petroleum engineering,” Perry said. “Granted, he’s the only one who wants to major in that, but my point is there are so many different ones.”
Howard called the increased interest in engineering “a new trend in careers” that she’s seen in the past few years.
Law and safety are also of interest to Chestatee High students, according to Howard.
“We have a criminal justice class now,” she said. “A Lanier Tech professor comes to our campus to teach a college course — so that has gained some attention for those types of careers.”
Howard said she sees growing interest in criminal law, fire, EMT, criminal detective and more.
Perry said she has students interested in being stenographers, or court reporters.
Owen Ozaki, a freshman at Chestatee, is already passionate about a future in law enforcement.
“I did a project on the U.S. incarceration rate and the prison population,” Ozaki said. “You see in the media all these people getting arrested, but you wonder how many people are actually going to jail or getting probation. I’m definitely interested in a career as a police officer or in federal law enforcement.”
Work-Based Learning programs like those at Chestatee and Gainesville allow students to take classes in specific career areas and to participate in local internships.
Perry said the program often allows students to find their passions through a process of elimination.
“I tell my students all the time, with how expensive college is, you may find through this process what you do want to do as a career, but you also may find out what you don’t want to do,” Perry said. “It’s just as valuable. When you go to college, you’re ahead of the game if you can at least eliminate the things you don’t want to do.”