Milton schools, chamber create student job-shadow program

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Neil Johnson
Friday, May 31, 2013

— This week, a half-dozen Milton High School students interested in chemical engineering got to see what liquid nitrogen does to stuff.

In a tour at Air Products, an industrial gas producer in the city, plant engineers showed students how to:

-- Freeze a banana with liquid nitrogen and then use the banana to pound a nail.

-- Make pieces of metal really cold using liquid nitrogen and then levitate them.

-- Cause a light bulb to burn brighter than normal by freezing its insides with liquid nitrogen.

Clearly, these are things chemical engineers might do in their spare time; they’re not likely serious functions of day-to-day work at Air Products or anywhere else where chemical engineering is conducted.

“It’s kind of a fun thing—it’s not chemistry per se,” said Greg Linder, Air Products plant manager.

But students from the school’s gifted program who took the tour got the idea of the processes and dynamics that chemical engineers deal with every day.

The tour included a glimpse of the plant in action and a talk with a college intern who works there. The intern shared information about the types of educational and work experience that might best prepare students who want to pursue careers in engineering.

“These are budding engineering students,” Linder said. “We’re trying to give them an overall flavor of engineering and chemical engineering, and what it’s like.”

The tour was part of a job-shadowing program that’s being organized through the Milton School District and the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce as a way to match students interested in specific professions with businesses that focus on those fields.

The idea is to give Milton students a leg up on what could be their dream careers by seeing them in action at local businesses.

Milton High School guidance counselor Carrie Wineke said it’s that tangible, experience that could spark a student’s interest to go further—and to ultimately pursue a job in a certain profession based on his or her experience in the program.

“For a lot of them, it might be their first or only one-time shot to put their eyes on a job field,” Wineke said.

Right now, Wineke said, she and a few teachers at the school are working with MACCIT Director JoLynn Burden to set up more opportunities such as the Air Products tour next school year.

Through her contacts, Burden is working to get students in the front doors of local businesses where the work matches students’ interests.

Some career fields the students could shadow next school year include accounting, sports medicine, police/fire/detective work, veterinary care and law.

Wineke said that, for now, the program will be available only to students from the high school’s gifted program, but the district is looking into how it could offer the program to the general student population.

It’s taken more than a year of legwork by staff at the high school—and months of work by Burden—to set up the program.

Some fields, such as medicine, have insurance restrictions and patient-privacy laws that make it difficult to bring students in for tours or hands-on learning. Wineke said the district and Burden are continuing to work through that type of red tape to give students a front-row view of careers they might want to pursue.

And, just maybe, they won’t have to go far to find them.

“I guess if there’s an outside hope, it’s that it opens kids’ eyes up to all the potential local career opportunities,” Wineke said. “All these jobs exist in Milton; they might not have to go so far away to get them.”

Last updated: 10:30 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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