The idea began 22 years ago when a Kenai Chamber committee came up with an idea to take high school juniors out of the classroom and let them experience the real world of careers available in the local economy. It was called Job Shadow and the first Wednesday of March saw 122 students participating at 35 different businesses in the Central Peninsula. From health care careers to arts and crafts, high-tech service to dog care students choosing their own interests got up close and personal with those who are already successful along those career paths. The program has proven to be a great success, evidenced by award winning dentists like Dr. Hu who decided he wanted to become a dentist during his job shadow day at KCHS and after earning his degree came home to practice locally, to others who totally changed their minds about a profession they thought they wanted to pursue during their job shadow day and totally changed career paths after experiencing the realities involved with that career. Either way it’s beneficial to the student and the businesses who are always looking for the next generation work force, Johna Beech, Kenai Chamber CEO told the Dispatch.
“We did a lot of preparation for this day,” said Madison as she shadowed Maddy an R.N. at Central Peninsula Hospital, “We did a lot of research and made up really good resumes. A lot of dedication and time went into getting ready and it was definitely worth it,” added Madison saying that she wants to pursue a career in nursing and take her training right here at KPC. With more jobs available in the local area in health care fields than any other industry it was no surprise that CPH host 14 job shadows, “It’s not just about becoming a doctor or nurse, there are all kinds of opportunities in health care and we have students interested everything from clinical science to R.N.s to physical and occupational therapists shadowing here today. It’s a very beneficial program,” said Jim Childers, volunteer coordinator at CPH.
It was also no surprise that KCHS juniors had the high-tech industry on their minds and over at Northern Tech Group (NTG) in Soldotna, a business started by Tim Jordan that now has 7 full time employees, “We talked this morning with Emma and Jared about the skill set desired for a successful IT person and right at the top was customer service. IT skills are great but they are ongoing and ever changing. The communication portion of customer service has to be learned right up front to successful,” commented Jordan. Emma, a foreign exchange student from Finland said that while she had always been interested in IT she never expected anything like the Job Shadow experience, “IT is what I want to pursue when I go home to Finland,” she said. “If all goes the way I plan I want to open an arcade here in the community,” said Jared Duck while at NTG. Over at the Blue Moose Bed & Biscuit in Soldotna, owner Ellen Adlam introduced Alec Levy and Josiah Luze to some things about animal care that they hadn’t anticipated, “We’re learning today that there is so much more to animal and pet care today than we ever thought possible and that translates into new career paths and business opportunities like we’ve started here,” said Adlam. “I’ve grown up with dogs and cats and love animals and if I can pursue a career that allows me to do what I love while earning a living then that’s what I want to pursue,” said Luze. “I’d like to do this not just as a summer job, but all my life,” commented Josiah’s Shadow partner Alec Levy. “Actually, I got one of my best employees from the Job Shadow program several years ago,” said Adlam.
After their experience in the real work world all of the Job Shadow participants and sponsors were treated to a free lunch compliments of Arby’s and McDonalds and heard the life experiences of KCHS alumni who had returned to Kenai after they completed their education to live and raise their families. Kelly Gifford of the class of 1980 who works for Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services in Kenai and Stephanie Queen who is planner at the City of Soldotna.