NORTH ADAMS -- Although many Northern Berkshire eighth-graders aren't plotting out their careers yet, they've already been given a look at some of the paths they'll have to take in order to reach their future goals.
On Thursday, 398 eighth-grade students from around Northern Berkshire met with area professionals during the second annual Northern Berkshire Eighth Grade Career Fair at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The Berkshire Compact initiative developed and supports the fair.
"Overall, we want to inspire them to begin to think about their future careers, especially at a time when they are transitioning from middle school to high school," Josh Mendel, associate director of admissions at MCLA, said. "Many of these students will be making a decision about which high school they will be going to next year. The type of career path they may be considering could have an impact on which high school they go to. Our mission is to be able to help them begin thinking about the paths they'll need to take to help them to enter the workforce in the future."
Students from Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School, Drury High School, Hoosac Valley Middle & High School, Mount Greylock Regional, Clarksburg Elementary and Gabriel Abbott Memorial School were able to select two workshops from a list of 19 to attend during two 30-minute sessions. The workshops ranged from banking and finance to dentistry to advanced manufacturing.
"When you meet these professionals, ask them lots of questions," said MCLA President Mary K. Grant, encouraging the students to take the opportunity to learn from those in the field during an opening presentation. "These are the people who are working their dream jobs. Ask them what you need to do to follow your passion. Ask them about the type of education you'll need The future is very bright and it is moving very fast, but you are all up to it."
In a workshop on law enforcement, North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio and MCLA Director of Public Safety Joseph Charon explained the numerous jobs within the field and the steps students can begin taking now.
"You need to have a good character. You need to have strong morals and ethics. You need to know right from wrong," Charon said. "You need to be physically fit. Academics are really important too. It's really hard to find a job today without some form of higher education. The higher you aspire to go in any field, the more education it is going to take to get there."
Cozzaglio added, "I can never stress this enough -- stay out of trouble. Your record is going to follow you your whole life."
In a workshop on the culinary arts, Adam Brassard, a chef at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, and Melissa King, a culinary arts teacher at McCann Technical School, spoke about how choices now can affect later goals.
"In our industry, we're able to move anywhere," King said. "Can you imagine moving to your favorite vacation destination and being able to live and work there?"
But she stressed, that choice doesn't come without sweat equity -- gaining experience in the kitchen of local restaurants and taking courses in high school that are in line with career goals.
"I can't stress how important your high school education will be," Brassard added. "I hated math class. I still hate math, but I use it every day. You wouldn't think I'd need it, but you can't be a chef without math."
He also spoke about the versatility of the field.
"You might not want to work in a restaurant or a kitchen, but love the culinary arts," he said. "There are so many other related fields -- food photography, food blogging and writing or being a food critic. You can combine several of your passions."
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