High school sophomores from around Mobile County learned about the many different healthcare career fields available in the 14th annual Health Occupations Career Fair this week at the Mobile Civic Center.
The fair, held Wednesday and Thursday at the Civic Center’s Expo Hall, is a project of the Bay Area Healthcare Coalition and is designed to expose students who have already expressed an interest in the healthcare field to the different opportunities that are available.
“Healthcare is the second-largest industry, so they want to make sure they have the right people coming up through the workforce pipeline and you have to start early,” said Emily McGrath, director of education and workforce development at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. “Most students just think: I’ll be a doctor, or I’ll be a nurse, because that’s all they know about. But that may not be the best fit for them, both with the skill set but also with educational requirements.”
The 16 exhibitors shared information from fields like surgery, nursing and emergency medicine to pharmacy, mental health, dietary and speech and pathology. This year, a veterinary technician booth was added due to the number of students who’d shown an interest in that field.
“A lot of them have an idea of what they think they want to do, and some of them change their minds after being exposed to it,” said Betty Dixon, academy specialist at Baker. “For instance, dietitian – they didn’t know anything about it and now they’re interested in it. Others didn’t think about dentistry before and now they are.”
Carol Statter of Infirmary Health System, an industry partner of the MCPSS Signature Academies, said the hands-on, interactive nature of the fair not only helps students learn about which careers they might like to pursue, but to also gain enough knowledge to know which ones they’re not really interested in.
“Most of these kids don’t know what they don’t know. They think they want to be something but they really don’t understand the hands-on piece of it,” Statter said. “All the young ladies want to be NICU nurses because they think they get to hold babies all the time and just change their diapers and feed them. But when they get over there and see you actually have to stick them with needles, they’re this big and you’re not holding them, that would prevent them from getting into nursing school and then realizing that’s not what they wanted and then they drop out. They’ve wasted their time and I’ve lost that seat forever. I can’t fill that seat. We’re a nurse down and we haven’t even finished the program.
“So this not only exposes them to some careers they probably don’t even know about, but it gives them an idea of what the day-to-day stuff is like so they can make some educated decisions.”