This post is written by Allison Shimek, a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project, and a coach to members of the third cohort. Allison is the Director of the Fayette Public Library and Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives in La Grange, Texas. Contents of this post originally appeared on the Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice. Allison’s first post on her work as a part of the Future Ready project was published on the YALSAblog earlier this year.

13 teens in 6th – 11th grade attended an event at Colorado Valley Communications (CVC), a local telephone and internet provider. Of the total, eight teens were in middle school (6th – 8th grade). Most of the teens were the same from our first event at a local bank. We did also have a couple new faces.

photo of teens talking with CVC staffThe day began with four career exploration stations. The teens visited the NOC (network operation communications) room with several big screen televisions that displayed problems with towers and outages in the area. The company actually had a tower go down and a cut fiber line during the event so the teens got to see what happens in those instances and how problems appear on the screens. At another station teens learned how fiber is installed in the ground and how to splice fiber. At another station the teens explored how a fixed wireless network works and how locations for wireless are selected using Google Earth’s mapping tools. By entering their home address into the map teens had a chance to interact with the tools the telecom employees use. Last, teens learned about how technology has changed the way customers interact with CVC and how CVC markets to the community.

photo of teens engaged in snowball activityAfter exploring the stations everyone had lunch and then the teens took part in a snowball activity. For the activity I asked teens to think about their hobbies. I then facilitated a discussion that helped teens think about how their hobbies build important skills and the types of careers we saw in the morning that required similar skill sets. We also talked about how these skills were strengths and when they have a job interview it’s possible to communicate the specific skills and strengths we discussed. After that teens went to mock job interviews with CVC staff and National Bank & Trust staff. A VP from our partner bank, the host of our first event, was interested in being involved so she, along with CVC staff, facilitated the interviews. We gave the teens the opportunity, if they were interested, to have a second interview with a different staff member – a few of the teens took advantage of the opportunity.

photo of teens playing career jengaTeens that were not being interviewed played job interview Jenga with me or a card game called Awkward Moment with a member of the library staff. We wrapped up by having two young adults talk to the teens about scholarships. CVC provides scholarships for high school graduates of up to $5,000. They also provide up to $10,000 to interested individuals that will go to college or technical school and agree to work at CVC, for three years, upon graduation. One of the recipients of the $10,000 scholarship joined us and spoke about his experience.

I used talkback boards for getting some feedback from the teens and they worked great. The teens did not know very much coming in about the careers available and when the program started they listed jobs such as janitor, front desk worker, utility line worker, energy monitor, and computer related jobs. At the end of the program the teens showed awareness of many more options and listed engineering, communications, marketing, management, services, and regulations. The teens also expressed that they learned how to act in an interview and how wireless and wired connections work. Despite our dependence on the internet it was very apparent that many, myself included, did not actually know how the internet works and how it is managed.

A few teens expressed interest in seeing or learning more about specific careers and we are trying to offer next steps for possible shadowing or one-on-one opportunities. We ask our partners in the beginning what they are willing and able to facilitate for interested teens beyond the event and most are open and provide a pathway. I think many teens are surprised they do not need a college degree to work but do need certification or training. At the beginning of our first program, one teen wrote that a college degree makes someone more trustworthy. I hope and believe we are changing that opinion. Overall, I think teen opinions about the number and variety of jobs at a specific business is changing. Our programs so far have been a learning experience for all involved – teens and adults. My community partner and I have a meeting scheduled and are re-thinking how we will organize this series of career events in 2019/2020.

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