Clover Middle School eighth-grader Sydney Lawler got a look Tuesday at her possible career.
Lawler, 14, spoke with representatives of Thomas and Leitner Orthodontics, which has offices in Rock Hill and Fort Mill, during Teen CEO Day at Winthrop University.
“I really like the idea of being an orthodontist,” Lawler said. “I can see what I’d be getting into if I decided to go into that.”
Teen CEO Day, held in Winthrop University’s coliseum, brought together eighth-graders from York, Lancaster and Chester County to talk with local businesses about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM.
Nearly 5,000 local students got a chance to learn about careers in robotics, medicine, park service and other science and technology fields that exist locally.
Teen CEO Day is a collaborative effort with local businesses, school districts and the STEM Development Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to STEM education and increasing the number of students in STEM programs.
More than 45 business representatives shared with students what jobs are available that might interest them and what education, skills and personality traits are needed to be successful.
“Teen CEO was established to provide an opportunity for students to learn about what a wonderful community they live in and the careers and jobs that are here, as well as the career pathway of how they might go in that direction,” said Ed Duffy, executive director of the Stem Development Foundation.
South Carolina is facing a shortage of graduates in STEM fields, according to the foundation.
“This shortage is creating a major barrier to economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship in the state and the region,” the organization states on its website.
York, Chester and Lancaster County businesses need skilled talent in STEM areas, Duffy said. He said eighth-graders are excited and it is a good time to get them interested in careers.
“This is an opportunity for all these folks working together to convey to our eighth-grade students that this is a wonderful community with a lot of opportunities,” Duffy said.
Lindsay Adams with Thomas and Leitner Orthodontics said she shared with students the different careers orthodontics offers, the skill set needed and the personality traits required.
“It’s not just a place to get your braces; it’s also a career path they can take,” she said.
Katherine Lynn, a park ranger with Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, said she spoke with students about the variety of STEM-related careers the U.S. National Park Service offers. She said one goal is to get more students interested in visiting their national parks.
“We hope more people, especially in the local area, become aware of the National Park Service as a career and the opportunities it has,” Lynn said.
Each student was assigned businesses to visit during the event that related to their field of interest. During each visit, the students were tasked with asking questions to learn what a typical day on the job is like, what jobs are needed at the company, what skills are needed for the job and any advice the employees could share.
Students who completed their visits were able to enter a drawing to win prizes.
Brooks Harper, a motivational speaker who is experienced with middle and high school students, advised them to prepare for a successful career and meet the demands of a 21st-century workforce.
Oakridge Middle School eighth-grader Sam Willoughby, 13, said he learned that he could make good money at an engineering job. He said he also learned what is required for specific jobs, such as a two-year or a four-year degree.
“Doing this every year is the best thing that Lancaster, Chester and York counties have done,” he said. “I loved what they told me and what they let me learn. I love this day.”
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082