On the job training

GMG hosts iJAG Career Exploration Day

Trent Pease of New Century FS shows off the sprayer simulator during GMG’s iJAG Career Exploration Day. PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY

GARWIN — GMG High School students were granted a unique opportunity to step outside of their traditional classrooms and learn more about the jobs they may be working in the future as part of the Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) Career Exploration Day last Friday.

The booths covered a little bit of everything. Students could test out an excavator courtesy of Garwin-based MD Construction and Altorfer CAT of Cedar Rapids, run a sprayer simulator with New Century FS, learn about drones from Ellsworth Community College Professor Kevin Butt, get a primer on firefighting from the local volunteer department or even change a tire with members of the team from Jensen Ford in Marshalltown.

Matt DeSchamp, the owner of MD Construction, was excited to hear from students who are interested in pursuing the trades as they attempted to remove softballs off of a traffic cone and place them into a bucket while operating the CAT 306 mini excavator.

“I think the main thing they want to do is run the equipment, and they want to try. And it’s tedious to get them to try to do what they’re doing, but I think that’s the main thing,” he said. “They want to try something different, which I think is great.”

They also had a chance to enjoy free pork burgers thanks to the Tama County Pork Producers and hear a few words from representatives of Iowa Pork over the lunch hour before heading back out for more exposure to a wide variety of potential careers. Brittany Raymond, a GMG alum who now serves as the district’s activities director and iJAG instructor, said many of the upperclassmen are still undecided about their futures, so anything that can be done to guide them on their path toward making a decision is a benefit.

GMG senior Braylee Kimberley, left, operates a CAT 306 Mini Excavator while Zach Borst of Altorfer CAT supervises during the iJAG Career Exploration Day held at the high school last Friday. PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY

“The hope is (that) they can find something they may be interested in and see the different careers that are offered out there,” she said. “The other thing that this does is it gets them more connected to their community.”

Raymond said local businesses jumped at the chance to get involved, and she even had last minute inquiries about potentially being added to the list.

“I can’t tell you how amazing all the businesses (are), and some of them are just community members who wanted to do something for the kids. It’s been awesome,” she said. “Kudos to them. They did some really awesome stuff for the kids today.”

Beyond that, she hopes events like these show students how many good-paying jobs are available right here in the area before they consider moving far away for better opportunities. Raymond herself is a prime example.

“My dream job was to be able to come back and work at the school because I had such a good experience here, and we do talk about that in class a lot,” she said. “Once you grow up and you find whatever it is that makes you happy, don’t forget about where you came from and how you can give back to your community. So getting some of them to stick around or come back or contribute in some sort of way would be awesome.”

Ellsworth Community College Professor Kevin Butt performed a drone demonstration outside of GMG High School last Friday. PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY

And while students’ individual levels of interest and participation vary, some of them, like GMG iJAG Career Association President Wyatt Jackson, a senior, saw it as a great time to connect with their future careers. Jackson plans to attend Iowa Central Community College in the fall and study to become an electrician.

“Doing stuff like this, it brings a lot of different career opportunities into one spot, so you kind of get to experience them all at the same place without going anywhere,” he said. “There is one electrician booth today, so I made sure to go through that. That was pretty fun and helped me gain some confidence in my choice. But I’d say (that) if I didn’t know what I was gonna do, this would definitely help people learn so many things.”

Two GMG seniors, JJ Hornberg and Nick Tuttle, have already secured summer internships through iJAG that will set them up for their own successful careers down the line. Both attended a Build My Future “signing day” event at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on April 19, meant to mirror the announcements athletes make when deciding which college they will attend.

Tuttle will be participating in an internship with Alliant Energy to become a lineman, which he said he was drawn to because of the appeal of helping others.

“I like seeing them out there helping people get the power back on, and I like working outside with my hands,” he said.

Dan DeWitt of the Tama County Pork Producers had grill duty and provided a free lunch for students and participants at the iJAG Career Exploration Day at GMG last Friday. PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY

After completing the internship, he plans to apply to the lineman program at MCC, complete his schooling and then apply for an apprenticeship before waiting for a chance to get hired full time. When asked what advice he might have for youngsters considering following a similar path, he gave a concise but thoughtful answer.

“Learn sooner,” he said. “Learn as much as you can as soon as you can.”

Hornberg, on the other hand, will be learning the ins and outs of chemical application with New Century FS through his internship. He first became interested through his own father, who worked in the field for over 20 years.

“When I was little, he used to take me when he was working, and then when I got up there I’d help him if he needed help,” he said. “Some of my friends, they’ve done it, so I know a lot of people that work there.”

He plans to stay in the area and plant his roots — literally and figuratively — in a line of work where he can do something different every day. Raymond is proud of both students and can’t wait to see what they accomplish going forward.

“Each of these young men have bright futures, and I hope to see them continue to grow. We are appreciative of the positive impact New Century FS and Alliant have had on our communities and thankful for the opportunity they have given these two students,” she said.

To learn more about iJAG, visit https://www.ijag.org/