Fair offers sophomores help with choosing career direction

Cindy Grawe, right, prevention director at Madonna House in Quincy, and Kevin Blickhan, a manager with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, talk to students about human services careers during the annual sophmore career fair Friday at John Wood Community College. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 24, 2017 10:25 pm Updated: Mar. 24, 2017 10:44 pm

QUINCY -- As a high school sophomore, Illinois Conservation Police officer Eric Wheatley knew exactly what he wanted to do as a career.

Wheatley wanted to be a veterinarian, but a stint in the military piqued his interest in law enforcement. Now in his 11th year as a conservation officer, he spent part of Friday describing what he does during the annual sophomore career fair at John Wood Community College.

"It's basically a broad overview of what we are, what we do, and trying to explain some things we do people don't know about," Wheatley said. "People look at me and think I'm just the guy who comes out and checks fishing licenses, hunting licenses, but we do more than that."

Most surprising, Wheatley said, is that conservation police officers can write speeding tickets on the state's interstates.

Sophomore A.J. Bailey of Bluffs has family in law enforcement and listened to Wheatley's talk SEmD part of a session on agriculture, food and natural resources -- to learn more about a potential career.

"I'm kind of clueless in where I want to go," Bailey said.

Parker Hill, a sophomore at Brown County High School, already knows he wants to be a mechanical engineer, so he took in a session on architecture and construction. Building "is one of my hobbies that I do," Hill said.

The West Central Region Education for Employment System sponsored Friday's career fair, which brought almost 1,000 sophomores from Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and surrounding counties to JWCC.

"If they already have a general idea of what they want to do, then we're hoping this will solidify that or give them a little more information about a career they're particularly interested in," said Gena Finley, program coordinator at the Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center. "If they don't have any idea of what they want to do, it might at least give them a general direction they want to go in a career."

Students chose two presentations to attend from 15 career clusters with more than 45 speakers highlighting job environment, employer expectations, salary and needed education or training. In the health sciences field, one of the largest highlighted at the career fair, students heard from a nurse, respiratory therapist, pharmacist and registered dietitian in the therapeutic career cluster, and an X-ray technician, lab technician and paramedic in the diagnostic cluster.

Kim Mulch and Jenna Niemann with Klingner and Associates highlighted some history of architecture, famous projects and sustainability issues.

"We just enjoy talking to kids and trying to help them make decisions on their career paths, introduce them to opportunities in architecture, interior design and construction," Mulch said.

Niemann said it helps students to hear directly from people in the field.

"When I was in high school, they had us do projects where we'd read about somebody, do some research on different fields," she said. "That was helpful, but probably the most beneficial was when I would actually go and talk to somebody that was in the field. You hear real-life experiences and ask them questions."

Camp Point Central High School student Breanna Bowen hoped the ag/food/natural resources and health sciences-therapeutic presentations would provide inspiration.

"I'm just hoping it points me in a career direction," Bowen said. "I don't like science at all or math, so hopefully there's something out there that doesn't involve too much of that."