MARSHALL - Representatives from more than 80 educational institutions and other organizations were on hand to provide information and answer questions from high school juniors and seniors at a Minnesota Education Fair Tuesday morning at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.
While exploring career information can be exciting for young adults as they attempt to plot out their futures, it can also be a daunting task. Some may be persuaded into a career field based on family tradition or potential wages, while others might base their decisions on personal interests or future needs in the workforce. For many, it could involve a combination of factors.
Westbrook-Walnut Grove senior Hailey Osland attended the education fair although she already has a pretty good idea of where she's headed in the future.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall High School students Riley Sharbono, left, Bryce Johnson and Adam Kovash engaged in conversation with Wayne State representative Alex Washington Tuesday at the Minnesota Education Fair at Southwest Minnesota State University.
"I'm planning to go to Ridgewater College for special education and coaching," Osland said. "There's a huge need for special education teachers, especially around here."
On a visit to the campus, Osland not only found that Ridgewater College fit her educational criteria, it also provides her with the opportunity to continue playing volleyball and stay fairly close to home.
"It's going to be fun," she said. "Most of the colleges I looked at didn't have a very strong special ed program, except for Moorhead State. I liked the program at Ridgewater and they just got a coaching degree there last year, too. It's 10 credits so I'm going to get that."
The coaching credentials will help her along the way, Osland said, if she chooses to pursue coaching or officiating in the future.
"It's good in the state of Minnesota," she said. "And since special education is a much-needed field, I want to stay around here."
Another senior at WWG isn't sure if there is a need for his chosen career field, but he feels strongly about pursuing something he is passionate about.
"After I graduate this year, I'm going to a two-year college for my generals," Rocky Yang said. "Then, I'm transferring to DSU (Dakota State University) for game designing. I just like video games, playing them. I've always wanted to create them, too."
Yang said he wasn't committed to a two-year institution yet, but that the educational fair could provide some direction.
"It was pretty cool," Yang said. "It was a good experience, seeing all the colleges and what they offer as far as their programs."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, industries and occupations related to health care, personal care and social assistance, and construction are projected to have the fastest job growth between 2010 and 2020. Total employment is projected to increase by 14.3 percent over the decade, resulting in 20.5 million new jobs.
The BLS also reports that occupations that generally need some type of post-secondary education for entry are projected to grow the fastest in those 10 years. Occupations classified as needing a master's degree have a projected growth of 21.7 percent, followed by doctoral or professional degree occupations at 19.9 percent and associate's degree occupations at 18 percent.
"I think I'm headed towards getting a communications degree," Lac qui Parle Valley student Jacinta Roggenbuck. "I think it's an interesting major and I'm a people person."
Rachel Jensen, Roggenbuck's friend and fellow classmate at LQPV, is planning to go into engineering.
"I like designing," Jensen said. "I like the math and science aspect of it."
While engineering is considered a non-traditional career field for women, that factor does not deter Jensen one bit. In fact, she's encouraged by it.
"Most schools do have an uneven ratio of male to female engineering students," she said. "At one school, it was 80 percent male and 20 percent female. But I don't mind that."
Between 2010 and 2020, 54.8 million total job openings are expected, according to the BLS, though more than half (61.6 percent) is expected to come from the need to replace workers who retire or otherwise leave the occupation permanently.
The BLS statistics also reveal that the 16- to 24-year-old age group is projected to account for 11.2 percent of the labor force in 2020, while the "prime age" working group (ages 25-54) is projected to drop to 63.7 percent as the baby boom generation moves entirely into the 55-years-and-older age group, increasing that labor force category from 19.5 percent in 2010 to 25.2 percent in 2020.
WWG senior Logan Hotzler feels there is job security in the automotive field.
"I love tinkering with vehicles," Hotzler said. "I thought about switching to music, but then I worked at an auto shop this summer. I really enjoyed it, so I'm sticking with automotive. I'm already accepted at SMSU, so I'll take my generals there and then transfer out."
Despite the crowded atmosphere, Lakeview junior Braden French said that the education fair, which was hosted by the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling, was somewhat helpful to him.
"I got to check out the colleges I wanted to check out," French said. "I was just trying to get an idea for a career, basically. There's too many options, I think. I'll be going to college, more than likely, but I just don't know what I'm going to do for sure."
French said he is leaning toward the agricultural field though. While Minnesota has changed in many ways since its statehood began in 1858, agriculture continues to be a foundation for the state's economy. The Agriculture and Food Industry is the second-largest employer in Minnesota.
According to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, 50 percent of the total value of agricultural products come from nine states, including Minnesota, which is ranked seventh. The opportunities don't stop there, however. Two-thirds of all agricultural jobs in Minnesota are off-farm, including processing, distribution, supply and service sectors.
"My grandpa's a farmer and I help out on the farm," he said. "It's a growing field and this is an agricultural community. I want to stay in this area. If you're not going to be in agriculture, you're going to have to move away I think."