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Students learn about possible career opportunities, including robotics

Students learn about possible career opportunities, including robotics

NORFOLK, Neb. – The job market continues to evolve, with new careers emerging every year – especially in technology.
Helping future generations navigate a career path for one of these opportunities is the annual Northeast Community College Ninth Grade Career Day.

At the most recent Career Day on Friday, Dec. 15, student interest was spread among careers that Northeast offers from agriculture to business. But there also was significant interest in an emerging career that Northeast is preparing to train future workers – robotics.

Northeast has announced plans to locate a new innovative feature called an iHub in an 18,000-square-foot building in downtown Norfolk. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in spring. Area manufacturers are working with Northeast to design a space the supports the further development of robotics and automation, among other things.

Paul Cross, director of iHub, said he had 35 students in the Ninth Grade Career Day, including seven girls, participating in a robotics session.

“Students had a quick introduction to their new teammate with some easy icebreaker questions,” Cross said. “Each group had time to view and plan their modifications, time to modify the gripper of their robot, a chance for each teammate to drive and manipulate the game pieces, and then time to debrief and document their improvements.”

A recent LinkedIn Emerging Job Reports indicates technology adoption will continue to be one of the key drivers of business transformation in the next five years. That includes a diversity of technical fields, including robotics.

“During the session I had a chance to promote our programs at (Northeast) that are related to robotics.  I also tied in how robotics are used in the manufacturing sector, and the importance of cybersecurity on the plant floor.  It was a great day,” Cross said.

Northeast’s downtown space will feature space for students to experience robotics through camps, robotic teams, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities.  

And while the job market is rapidly evolving with robotics and technology in many sectors, most of the traditional careers that Northeast offers will continue to be in demand. In fact, the LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Report indicates that large job growth is expected in education, agriculture and digital commerce and trade.

Becky Miller, Northeast communications and recruitment coordinator, said Northeast had 662 students registered for the event, and 602 attended. Students were offered 30 to 40 sessions that they could attend, with students encouraged to sign up for four sessions. Some of the sessions were double, so not everyone got to attend four sessions.

All the schools in Northeast’s 20-county service area were invited, with 24 schools attending this year.

“It’s hands on,” Miller said. “The students identified the top 10 (careers) they were interested in, with them then able to attend up to four.”

The event grows each year. As recently as 10 years ago, it included about 450 students. Last year, 800 students registered, but because it took place on a snowy day, and only about 600 attended.

Northeast faculty members completed the presentations and answered questions. There were more than 65 presenters and 45 volunteers who assisted, including transportation around campus and to agriculture facilities east of the main campus.

Northeast has a waiting list for Career Day, including more than 160 students this year. Through experience, it has been determined that ninth grade is a good time for students to think about career preparation. The students can talk to the faculty directly and ask questions, including any prerequisites they should be taking in high school.

“As freshmen, they are beginning to pick their schedules,” Miller said. “If they must have four years of math, they have to get those four years in before they graduate. This is a good time to look at those things and talk to their parents or counselors. They may go out to Vet Tech, and then want to know what they need to do (in high school).”

The Ninth Grade Career Day also builds on another program Northeast offers – specific career days. Starting as sophomores, they can start attending program days to learn more about a particular field. By the time they are juniors and seniors, they can be talking specifically about a career and learning about the programs Northeast offers and the instructors in them.

The high schools that attended this year were Allen, Bancroft-Rosalie, Battle Creek, Burwell, Central Catholic Guardian Angels, Chambers, Creighton, Crofton, Elgin, Emerson-Hubbard, Hartington-Newcastle, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, Neligh-Oakdale, Newman Grove, Norfolk High, Oakland-Craig, Pierce, Plainview, Stanton, Stuart, Verdigre, West Point-Beemer, Winside and Wisner-Pilger.

Career Day
Jen Greve, executive director of Marketing & Recruitment, holds a sign to show ninth-graders where to go to attend one of more than 30 sessions during a recent Ninth Grade Career Day at Northeast Community College. (Northeast Community College)