June 22nd, 2024

EPIC show opens career horizons for area students

By Dale Woodard - for the Lethbridge Herald on April 14, 2022.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Mike Hoffman, of Aerial Oberservation Services, gives a drone demonstration at EPIC 2022 Wednesday morning at the Exhibition Park South Pavilion.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?
Students attending EPIC 2022 perhaps didn’t have to answer that question right away, but they were given an idea or two about what their potential future looks like.
EPIC 2022 hit the Exhibition Park South Pavilion Wednesday, hosting 900 students from 45 schools across southwestern Alberta as 75 diverse business and industry professionals provided hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, introducing the Grade 9 and 10 students to a range of future careers available in the region.
“This is an occupational fair,” said Judy Stolk-Ingram, executive director with Career Transitions. “There are some older students as well. There was a skills study that was commissioned by Economic Development Lethbridge, Community Futures, Lethbridge College and a few others. They commissioned this skills study a few years ago looking at that gap between the need for employees and the difficulty in getting the right kind of skill sets. One of the things in that report is that young people need a more in-depth awareness of the careers which are available here in southwestern Alberta. The other piece is we really need to get information into the hands of students at younger ages.
“We’ve been doing EPIC for 11 years, but that report was good feedback knowing we’ve been on the right track.”
Career Transitions has a partnership with seven different school divisions, serving 70 middle schools and high schools from Crowsnest Pass to Bow Island, Cardston and Milk River and as far north as Vulcan and Nanton, serving approximately 10,000 middle and high school students.
Half of the 900 students at Wednesday’s fair attended in the morning with the other half coming in the afternoon.
Each group of students spent 20 minutes with each professional in their zone. Some even included a little hands-on participation, including students flying a drone or taking part in some virtual reality.
“So the exhibitors would come up with something as hands-on interactive as possible or a very compelling demo. That way, the kids get a little bit of a taste of what might be involved. They can ask questions about training and job opportunities,” said Stolk-Ingram. “There will be something related to trades or industrial or something related to health care, agriculture, science technology, engineering and math and then other miscellaneous ones. We have law enforcement, tattoo artists and a business owner. It really is a wide variety. What we want students to walk away from today is not necessarily should you or could you pick your career at this point, but it’s just the awareness of what’s out there. For students in Grade 9 or 10, if they’re going toward a particular trade (they’ll know) why they should have Math 20 (for example) or this course. So hopefully it will help them to make some decisions.”
The EPIC session is particularly important in the post-COVID world, said Stolk-Ingram.
“The students’ world has been turned upside down a little bit. What they thought the future might look like has been flipped on its side. So this is also about hope, connection, inspiration and awareness. I think there is so much the students can gain from this.”
Sixteen-year-old Winston Churchill High School student Joel Wilson, 16, not only attended Wednesday’s EPIC event, but was also on assignment as a photographer.
“I’m supposed to get pictures of students and businesses interacting,” said Wilson, who took up photography five years ago. “My teacher had an options class for it and it just stuck. I just like that it gets me outside and gives me something to do.”
When he wasn’t snapping pictures, Wilson was also checking out a vast array of career options spread out all over Exhibition Park.
“This is a great way to learn about how there are different careers, especially here in Lethbridge,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to take pictures and learn at the same time.”
Maria Wiebe, a 14-year-old student from Vauxhall High School, was also enjoying the one-on-one time with possible future employers.
“It’s cool. It’s a lot of different things I haven’t heard of. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to,” she said. “I thought the technology was really cool (as well as) the lawyer process. Everything was really cool to learn about and see.”
In proving it’s never too early to start mapping out potential career paths, EPIC provided that chance.
“It’s pretty important because people ask me what I want to do with my life and I (say) ‘Maybe this or maybe that. I’m not sure’,” said Wiebe. “With this, I get to experience and learn exactly what they do and what a day in their life looks like. In the future maybe I’ll say ‘When I was 14, I went to this career fair and that’s what made me want to be this.'”
While there were no concrete career decisions made as of Wednesday afternoon, a few professions had already caught Wiebe’s attention.
“I’m kind of leaning towards a therapist or something to do with people,” she said. “I like people. So even a lawyer, just to work with different people and things like that. I think that’s pretty cool.”

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