Local organizations come together to help guide nearly 800 students to future career paths

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Shelby Harmon, of Allied Heath and Moberly Area Community College, instructs Kayne Peacock, eighth grader from South Shelby Middle School, how to give a shot on a rubber arm. Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. – Kayne Peacock, an eighth grader from South Shelby Middle School, already knows what career path he will steer toward next year as a high school student.

“I want to get into metalworking,” he said with a smile. 

Peacock learned more about metalworking and explored other career possibilities available to him locally on Thursday morning at the Eighth Grade Career Fair in the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.

Nearly 800 eighth grade students from 22 area school districts, which included Hannibal, Palmyra, and Bowling Green, connected with more than 20 organizations that set up displays. Students tried out activities within various jobs.

Shelby Harmon with Allied Health and MACC spoke to students about the healthcare field. She also gave them the chance to perform a shot and insert an IV on a real-feeling rubber arm.

Harmon said many students were interested in joining the healthcare field. She advised them to begin taking health occupation classes their junior and senior year and get their certified nurse assistant (CNA) license. 

“There’s always a need for health care workers. There’s always a need for RNs, LPNs and CNAs. You will always have a job,” Harmon said.

Another popular stop was the Moberly Area Community College Mechatronics Mobile Training Lab, a trailer that houses a training simulation for mechatronics, which combines mechanical maintenance with modern technology. 

A degree in mechatronics is offered at MACC. This prepares students to be electrical and mechanical technicians to troubleshoot, repair and maintain complicated modern mechanical equipment.

Jeff Niekamp, an instructor at MACC, was at the career fair instructing students on what the circuits inside the mobile lab mean. 

“We educate individuals to become maintenance personnel. We develop your skill, and we will start with the basics of learning about breakers and sockets,” he told one group of students.

The Mechatronics Mobile Training Lab is used for an apprenticeship program. It can be taken on-site at companies to offer training to employees who want to move up in the workforce. General Mills has taken advantage of the training program.

Brandi Glover, executive director of workforce development at MACC, said some companies prefer off-site training, while others want the trailer to come to them. Glover said MACC is willing to accommodate. Anyone interested in pursuing the training program can contact her at 660-263-5865 or visit the MACC Workforce Development Center website.

Wendy Johnson, director of MACC, wants the students to see the many different opportunities in the area they can become educated to do.  

“There are wonderful opportunities for careers that students may not even be aware of or know are out there. So this gives them an opportunity to visit with different people currently in those careers,” she said. “They can continue to live here, have careers here and have their families here. It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of those things.”

They ask for hands-on displays to get kids involved in what they are seeing.

“It gets them excited when they can do something hands on and see it, touch it, live it,” she said.

Polly Matteson is the career advisor at the Northeast Missouri Regional Professional Development Center (Northeast RPDC) on the campus of Truman State University in Kirksville. Matteson is a member of the career fair planning committee, She said the event has been going on for more than four years.

Matteson said they wanted to give eighth graders this guidance before moving on to high school, where they become more serious about a career path. Although they know young minds can change when it comes to their futures, educating them about what’s out there is a good decision-making tool.

She said event will now help with a new Missouri requirement to have eighth graders create an individual core or academic plan. All students will do that for the first time in the spring. 

She also hopes that the event will show there are many different opportunities within a field.

“We just want to give them exposure to a lot of different opportunities. Just because they work for a utility company, doesn’t mean they have to be a lineman. Companies also need writers or communication specialists–we want them to know those kinds of opportunities are out there,” Matteson said.

Others participating in the event were John Wood Community College, Hannibal Fire Department, Hannibal Parks and Recreation, and other area businesses and organizations.

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