More than 5,000 eighth-grade students spent time last week at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan, but they weren’t riding rides. Instead, they were learning about careers and opportunities available in the region.
The students came from schools in southeast Alabama, northwest Florida and southwest Georgia to attend the fifth annual Southeast Worlds of Work (WOW). The career experience spanned two days and provided students an engaging, informative, educational and hands-on awareness of high-demand, high-wage career options.
“I’m having fun and learning a lot,” said Ashlyn Roberts from Wicksburg High School in Newton. “I’ve learned a little about some careers I never even thought about before.”
The event is also designed to inform teachers about current and future workforce needs in the region.
“Not all of these students will go to college, and events like this are a great way to show them there are fantastic career opportunities available to them if they get their high school diploma,” said Southeast Worlds of Work Project Manager Melanie Hill. “When you show a student, who might not be bound for a four-year college, that they can make $60,000 a year with a diploma, and more with an associate degree, you open up a whole new world to them.”
Farley volunteers demonstrated the “make” portion by inviting students to use a stationary bike that generated power for a blender to make smoothies.
“The kids were great! They loved pedaling the bike to make drinks,” said Jessica Gressett, an engineer at Farley. “The blender is pedal powered and it’s an easy way to explain that the same principle is used at Plant Farley to produce electricity by using steam to turn the turbines and generators.”
Linemen, engineers and others from Alabama Power demonstrated aspects of their company’s power delivery system. The students had the opportunity to use tools to open and close various switches on distribution poles that were erected for the WoW event. They watched how employees use drones to work on the electric system.
“This event is something we look forward to each year as we emphasize the safety aspects of our jobs,” said Power Delivery Distribution Manager Kendal Adams, of the Phenix City Crew Headquarters. “We love what we do, and we enjoy sharing our experiences with the students. Because, hopefully, in about four years or so, we may be working beside some of these young people we met this week.”
Other career fields represented at the event included automotive technology, aviation/aerospace, health science, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, military and public service.