Indian Mound Middle School eighth graders were among nearly 6,000 Dane County seventh and eighth graders who got to try different careers hands-on.

Held at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall, more than 85 Madison-area businesses provided demonstrations and spoke with students about their professions on Thursday, Nov. 21. The event helped students learn about different careers to begin planning high school classes and other career-oriented activities.

“Some kids are actively planning their futures, so this is a real opportunity for them,” IMMS teacher Josh Johnson said. “Others, it is first-time exposure, which is also a promise of this trip.”

He explained that while teachers can tell students about careers, this is a way for them to hear from actively employed people in the profession who will go back to their jobs the next day.

“What makes the FutureQuest event so valuable is that it takes all of the career exploration that we do with our students and makes it a reality with local businesses and hands-on activities,” IMMS principal Aaron Tarnutzer said. “Students are exposed to careers they may have not thought about and hopefully leave feeling that their dream job is possible.”

IMMS eighth graders take a one-quarter class called Futures in which they can develop an academic and career plan. The class covers different types of education after high school from military to apprenticeships to a four-year college.

“It exposes them to things they haven’t even thought of,” school counselor Jill Runde said.

She said students may only be exposed to the careers of parents, relatives and family friends, and students at FutureQuest could learn about others.

“It gets them out in a different environment to really look at things in a new way,” she said.

“There’s some careers that I didn’t really know were a career until now, and it’s really cool to experience,” IMMS student Leo Freedman said.

He plans on pursuing a career in architecture or a similar construction field and said the experience helps students figure out what they want to do before deciding on a career. He was able to explore his desired industry along with some new options.

“I don’t love all the sections, because not all of them are what I’m looking to do when I’m older, but I do think it’s really cool because I get to explore something new,” Savannah Shropshire said.

While her specific field of interest in biomedical engineering was not represented, she got to explore other types of engineering.

For students whose specific career choice was not represented, IMMS uses Xello so students can take career tests and interest inventories. Students can contact professionals with a provided email on Xello to answer questions.

IMMS students Nick Luebke, Braedon Lowrey and Jalen Hart were surprised by the amount of interactive activities professionals brought, especially the cars.

“I feel like there were a lot of trades that were well-represented and that’s very important, because that’s where the biggest need is going to be in our future,” Runde said.

She explained that being college-bound is not the only way to have a successful career. She encourages students to think about different ways of obtaining education and training.

IMMS has attended every year since the first FutureQuest three years ago. Runde has attended the past two.

“I felt there were more hands-on things for the kids to do (compared to last year) and lots of different experiments for them to see,” she said.

Runde said that one student she talked to was amazed that he could ask lawyers anything he wanted about his perspective field and get an honest answer.

“Just be curious,” she said about students’ career exploration.

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