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How businesses are helping middle schoolers choose career pathways
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Seventh-grade students from Gainesville and Hall County Schools descend on Lanier Technical College Tuesday, March 10, 2020, for the annual Career Path Fair. - photo by Scott Rogers

Choosing a career pathway is one of the biggest decisions Gainesville and Hall County middle schoolers make.

Before they enter high school they must choose from 16 different routes, including fields like information technology, marketing and management, early childhood education and health care science.

To ease this burden for students, around 35 businesses and agencies from around the area have teamed up to offer a glimpse into potential careers. 

The third annual career path fair started at Lanier Technical College on Tuesday, March 10, welcoming 600 seventh grade students from each Hall and Gainesville middle school. A second group of 600 will receive the same experience on Thursday, March 26, at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

The event is presented by Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Vision 2030, the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College 

Shelley Davis, founder of Workforce Strategies Group LLC, said each agency and business that came out fit into a career pathway offered at the local high schools. Some of those represented included Carroll Daniel Construction, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Hydro Gainesville, Longstreet Clinic, Regions Bank, Smiles Doctors and ZF Industries.

By the end of the fair, Davis said she hopes students will have narrowed down their career options.

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Seventh-grade students from Gainesville and Hall County Schools enter the Ramsey Conference Center at Lanier Technical College Tuesday, March 10, 2020, for the annual Career Path Fair. - photo by Scott Rogers

“We all see that these kids have a really bright future,” Davis said. “They need to be offered the opportunity to see what career paths are offered here in Hall County.”

In the Cochran Brothers Electric Co.’s room, students received a hands-on look at some of the company’s equipment. The seventh graders learned about building an electrical conduit, how infrared cameras work and witnessed other tools of an electrician’s trade.

Stanley Cochran, president of the company, said Cochran Brothers regularly hires students right out of high school and gives them on-the-job training. 

“I think this is great what they’re doing here with teaching kids to learn the trade and be responsible,” Cochran said. “That’s what it’s all about. Learn how to conduct yourself and apply yourself.”

Anna Dover, internal communication specialist at the Northeast Georgia Health System, showed students that the health care industry doesn’t only involve doctors and nurses. She told the students about all of the other jobs offered at Northeast Georgia Medical Center like marketing specialists and operating room technicians.

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Mike McGraw, of Ranger Manufacturing in Gainesville, speaks to seventh-grade students from Gainesville and Hall County Schools Tuesday, March 10, 2020, during the annual Career Path Fair at Lanier Technical College. . - photo by Scott Rogers

“A lot of these kids can take a pathway to health care, but I want to show them what we can do, and what we offer at NGHS,” Dover said. 

Several seventh graders from East Hall middle raised their hands when asked who wanted to choose health care as their high school pathway.

Amari Burce said she felt inspired by her sister, who works as a nurse in the hospital’s neonatal department, to pursue health care.

“I’ve always wanted to be a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse,” Amari said. “She told me that it can be sad, but I’ve always wanted to help people because there are a lot of families that need help with that.”

Representatives from Hall’s agriculture industries, including Jaemor Farms, gave students a look into what goes on in its sprawling peach orchards and strawberry fields.

The seventh graders shared their own personal experiences with farming. Jackson Newton from North Hall Middle, talked about how he built a hydroponic garden with his father to grow lettuce.

When Jackson grows up, he hopes to become a biochemist.

“I’m interested in science and math, and I also like engineering and computer programming,” Jackson said. “One of the companies I was interested in was Theranos, but they collapsed. I would want to work at a company like that, but a legitimate one.”

Before the students left the room, Carli Echols, Jaemor’s agritourism and marketing coordinator, gave a bit of personal advice.

She reminded the seventh graders that their career pathway in high school can offer a stepping stone into their futures, and encouraged them to make a choice they’re passionate about. 

“Choose something that you enjoy doing, and the rest will work itself out,” Echols said. “Even if you don’t end up in that career after high school, it’s not the end of the world. I promise you.”

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Gainesville Jaycees Young Man of the Year Phil Bonelli performs a freestyle rap in front of East Hall Middle School's Brianna Ponce Tuesday, March 10, 2020, during the annual Career Path Fair at Lanier Technical College. - photo by Scott Rogers