Thursday, October 28, 2010

Career Investigation can help guide choice of major.

The current research suggests that exploring career fields before choosing a major increases the likelihood of making a decision that is a good fit. The following article describes a program in Pittsburgh  that facilitates this process.

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Special education students get on-the-job training Students get training on a special day
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Connor Thomas, 17, and Thomas Alwi, 19, students at the Mon Valley School in Jefferson Hills, watched video of themselves on a televised screen last week, but it wasn't taken with a conventional video camera.
The image was recorded by the tiny camera in the tip of a scope used to perform colonoscopies at the Waterfront Surgery Center in Homestead.
Connor, of Brentwood, and Thomas, of Jefferson Hills, were among 14 special education students from the Mon Valley School who participated in the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Waterfront Discovery Day.
The day was held in conjunction with National Disability Mentoring Day, which is sponsored by the American Association of People With Disabilities. The day was designed to allow disabled students and job seekers to have opportunities for job shadowing and hands-on career opportunities.
The 14 students who participated were described as "the cream of the crop," by Mon Valley principal Jack Tachoir. The students had a variety of disabilities, including Asperger's syndrome and other forms of autism.
They were hosted at five different work sites at the Waterfront complex -- the AIU, Eat'n Park, Giant Eagle, Courtyard by Marriott and the Waterfront Surgery Center.
Connor and Thomas dressed in surgical scrubs and caps as they were led on a tour of the surgery center by Director of Nursing Bobbie Voit, who allowed them to hold and examine the $35,000 scope used to perform colonoscopies. She used the camera at the tip to record their faces and display them on the screen usually used to show footage of the colon.
"One of the reasons I'm here is because I have an interest in the medical field and I think a lot of medical places are looking for people," Thomas said.
While Thomas and Connor were handling the colonoscopy scope, classmates Tim Hawkins, 17, of South Park, and Aaron Johnson, 20 of Edgewood, were a few blocks down Watefront Drive handling icing packets as they decorated trays of Smiley Face cookies in the kitchen at the Eat'n Park restaurant.
Tim and Aaron had been instructed in the proper technique by John Frick, executive chef of menu development for Eat'n Park restaurants. Before the young men got to the fun of decorating cookies, they listened to a presentation from Mr. Frick about food preparation and the development of items for the restaurant's menu.
Aaron was particularly interested in the presentation since he attends Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School for food service, baking and meat cutting classes and asked for advice on choosing a culinary school when he is finished with public school.
Mon Valley student Bill McAfee, 19, of Clairton spent the day learning clerical skills in the offices of the AIU. That included making copies, sorting files and making deliveries.
"He was fantastic. Everything that I showed him, he picked up on immediately," said Julie Weigel, an AIU assistant.
Also at the AIU headquarters, Antwon Thompson, 17, spent time with custodial maintenance employee Johnny Odorisio.
"I learned how to install florescent light bulbs, to take the garbage out and to move the bins correctly so not to smash the doors," Antwon said. "I also learned how to work the shredder safely."
Antwon said he is interested in a job in industrial maintenance and found the work with Mr. Odorisio interesting.
The Waterfront Discovery Day was the first one of its type to be held locally and it was the product of a group of professionals who had recently completed training as part the Leadership Pittsburgh initiative.
The group's focus was special education so they reached out the Mon Valley School. The Leadership Pittsburgh group included Roselyn Wilkinson of MD&A Financial; Germaine Williams of the Pittsburgh Foundation; Michelle Figlar, executive director for the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young People; and Steve Nolder, vice president of human resources for Lanxess.
Dee Hoffman, transition consultant at the Mon Valley School, said the day provided the students with a valuable opportunity to team up with professionals and learn about their jobs and be able to make connections between what they are taught in their classrooms and how it applies to the workplace.
"It's such a meaningful experience. It gives the kids such a sense of reality," Ms. Hoffman said.
Mr. Nolder said the day was a benefit for the companies and professionals involved as well. "This is a recruitment issue for us. We need people who can stand to the test in ability and aptitude and do the jobs."
Organizers of the day say they hope to expand it next year to include the other special education centers operated by the AIU -- Sunrise in Monroeville and Pathfinder in Bethel Park -- and more employers.

Mary Niederberger:; 412-851-1512 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              412-851-1512      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

First published on October 28, 2010 at 6:17 am

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