How’s a career MADE?
Waukesha students explore options at WCTC expo

By Lauren Anderson - Freeman Staff

Oct. 1, 2015

Josh Halvorsen, a project engineer with M. A. Mortenson, right, discusses a virtual reality system the company uses to help clients walk through virtual 3D tours of a new building. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

PEWAUKEE - A career in construction might not immediately elicit images of video gaming.

But - as several Waukesha high school students found Wednesday - maybe it should.

Hundreds of technical education and engineering students from the Waukesha School District’s three high schools gathered at Waukesha County Technical College to learn more about careers in manufacturing, automotive, design, engineering and the skilled trades.

The inaugural Waukesha MADE (Manufacturing, Automotive, Design and Engineering) Career Pathway Expo allowed students facetime with more than 30 employers in the region.

Students were given prepared questions to ask the exhibitors, including what skills and education background they look for in a new hire and what kind of tuition reimbursement they offer employees.

Josh Halvorsen, a project engineer with M. A. Mortenson, center, discusses a virtual reality system the company uses to help clients walk through virtual 3D tours of a new building. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

A particularly popular stop was Mortenson Construction’s booth, where students virtually walked through a designed building using Oculus glasses and a video game controller.

“We’re showing how construction technology has changed so much - what you typically think of when you think of construction, it’s completely technology-based now,” Senior Integrated Construction Coordinator Kevin Kendellen said. “We’re definitely moving further into the 21st century now.”

After trying out the virtual tour, several Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy students noted their surprise at the various vendors’ use of technology.

“I think it’s really interesting that companies are using different technologies that don’t seem like they fit the application, but they actually do really well,” WEPA junior Josh Spleas said.

Elsewhere in the exhibit hall, Aries Industries, Inc. - a manufacturer of rehabilitation equipment in underground infrastructure and environmental applications - showcased a small robot with an attached video camera that’s used to inspect pipelines. Students tried their hand at moving it around the floor - and inspecting their shoes.

During the fair, Aries mechanical engineer Ryan Bocik and Waukesha CORE Robotics team members swapped notes about their respective robots, noting the differences between Aries’ intentionally heavy machine and the students’ lightweight designs.

Waukesha MADE

The Waukesha MADE program is designed to help students discover career opportunities while also developing future talent for area businesses through project-based learning, mentoring opportunities, internships and apprenticeships.

MADE committee member Louise Hermsen was on-site informing students about the schools’ opportunity for them to meet monthly with mentors over their lunch period. She said she wants students to see the array of career options available to them.

“We’re trying to get students excited about careers in manufacturing and showing them that there are a lot of different kinds of hats you can wear ... there are all kinds of roles, including accountants and marketing and human resources,” Hermsen said. “...We’re really being cheerleaders for manufacturing because we know that we have employment needs.”

Jeff Bollman, a technical education teacher at Waukesha North, said the expo helped reinforce messages he tries to teach in class.

“One thing we want them to learn is that there are careers out there, not just jobs,” he said. “They need to see what exactly it would take to do these jobs ... And it’s great for the kids to see what’s out there.”

 North High School freshman Jacob Kazmierczak has a pretty good idea of his future career pursuits, saying he would like to follow in his father’s footsteps as an engineer.

“I have an interest in making and fixing things ... I just like the field a lot, it seems like fun,” he said.

Kazmierczak said he appreciated the opportunity to network with potential future employers.

“It’s nice because some of them are already asking if I’d want a job,” he said.