Dozens of career prospects were on display for nearly 500 local high school students Thursday at the fourth annual Careers in Gear Youth Success Expo.
It didn't take Crater freshman Mikayla Miller long to size up her career interest at the expo, held at Central Medford High School.
"I saw the Phagan's booth and I really want to go to cosmetology school," Mikayla said. "I like working all parts of cosmetology — hair, nails and face makeup. I learned that just being polite and actually talking to the people I want to work with helps."
For many of the 56 exhibitors — whose businesses ranged from hydraulics and laser lens coatings to weatherization — the challenge was introducing students from 13 high schools to a world they have yet to encounter.
One group of girls discovered the possibilities of medical imaging and ultrasound work from Rick Hoylman, who heads up Oregon Tech's nuclear medicine program.
"When I explained what medical imaging was, they were really interested," said Hoylman, who is quick to point out what graduates of his programs can earn after completing four years of study.
He suggested students schedule a time to job shadow while they are still in high school.
"Job shadowing does what nothing else does," Hoylman said. "There is no other substitute. At the end of the job shadow, they can ask themselves if that is something they could see themselves doing."
Kimberly Atkinson, a Rogue River sophomore who is taking Web design and robotics classes, found the high-tech imaging machinery intriguing, but has more immediate plans.
"My mom plans to start a business — a pool hall in Rogue River," Kimberly said. "She wants me to design everything for her. I've been designing and building things for her, like T-shirts."
Some students were sorting out the possibilities even though they've already held down jobs.
Logos Charter School junior James Frazier has worked for his father's concrete construction company and for a housing framer as well. James said he's thought about career paths such as a dental assistant or fighting wildland fires.
"My long-term goal is find a career that suits me that I'm relatively happy with and I can provide for a family," James said. "The jobs I've gotten so far have been through my credentials of being a good worker and working hard."
One breakout class provided insight into filling out applications, writing resumes, writing cover letters, searching for jobs online and creating digital profiles.
"Those are really practical tools," said Stacie Grier, district director for Junior Achievement of Jackson and Josephine Counties. "They were exposed to some great opportunities."
Breakout sessions also were offered by members of the Southern Oregon High Performance Enterprise Consortium, who challenged students about critical thinking, collaboration, communication and conflict management.
For some, time is the biggest conflict.
Wyatt Croy, a sophomore at Cascade Christian High School, said sports keep him busy right now. But come summer he hopes to find a part-time job or internship.
"It depends on what's available, maybe something related to engineering — construction work or something like that," said Wyatt, after checking out the opportunities. "I want to intern in something I can relate to and go into later in life. Knife River and (Rogue Community College) provided some ideas."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.