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Novi — Molly Shore had no idea she would be performing her first tonsillectomy Wednesday morning with a full audience of nurses and students hovering around her.

The 14-year-old aspiring surgeon donned a medical headlamp, picked up a retractor and suction tool and followed the instructions of a Beaumont nurse, performing surgery on a medical dummy at MiCareer Quest Southeast, a one-day, career exploration event at which teens learn about in-demand jobs from pros in their respective fields.

"First, you have to cut around the tonsils and then you have to get suction in here in case of bleeding. And then I took them out one at a time," said Molly, a Lakeview High School student. "I want to be a surgeon, and I still do after that."

Nearly 10,000 high school students from 107 southeast Michigan high schools were to attend the event that connects teens with more than 100 companies and organizations to get them interested early in careers and address the challenge of filling the state's talent pipeline.

Students engaged in interactive and hands-on activities at the Suburban Collection Showplace with more than 500 working professionals from 114 organizations in four career quadrants: advanced manufacturing, construction, health sciences and information technology.

Teens were able to fly simulated drones on laptops, get their hands on robots and power tools, and climb into the driver's seat of a $350,000 natural-gas waste hauler during the event.

During their visit, students moved between career areas over a two-hour period, organizers said. More than 125 of the most in-demand occupations in the state were to be showcased, organizers said.

Precious Curry, a student at Chippewa Valley High School, learned something new on Wednesday: the proper way to enter a commercial trash truck from Waste Management. A company official showed her to the three access points needed to climb up and into the seat of the 33,000-pound green truck.

"I want to be a trash person. I also thought about being an OB-GYN," Precious said. "Driving the truck, I would do that for fun or to make money while in school."

The event was coordinated by Michigan Works! and the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs.

Brent Brasure, a career and technical education director at Fraser High School, said he brought 40 students to the event.

"Work-based learning opportunities are important for kids, particularly experiences like this, where it's hands-on engagement with professional mentors guiding students toward a career path by showing them what it is they would actually be doing. That is the unique element here," Brasure said.

Garett Hill, sophomore, 15, from Fraser High, hovered around a table on a cybersecurity program at Washtenaw Community College, which is building a certificate program in automotive cybersecurity.

"I saw it for the first time here, and I thought it was cool," Garett said. "I've seen stuff on TV and said that is something I can get into."

Macomb County’s Romeo High School sent its freshman class of 450 students. In 2019, as part of its transformation into the state’s first Ford Next Generation Learning community, the school will launch a special career academy for students in grades 10-12.

“Every student will be part of a career academy, preparing them with the more advanced skills they need to be successful in college, their careers and life,” CTE Director Natalie Davis said. “We believe MiCareerQuest Southeast is the perfect opportunity to expose our ninth-grade class to what career pathways are available to them prior to academy selection.”

According to Michigan Talent Investment Agency data, almost half of the companies the agency works with across the state indicate they struggle to find qualified people to fill their job vacancies.

Wanda M. Stokes, director of the Talent Investment Agency, said MiCareerQuest Southeast is a unique event to help address the state's workforce challenges.

"Immersion into hands-on learning is what ultimately helps students find their passion, so they can, in turn, discover their purpose," Stokes said. "MICareerQuest understands that extending career exploration beyond the walls of the school and creating opportunities for students to engage with business professionals is critically important in providing students with a variety of career path choices.”

The number of high schools enrolled in career technical education programs at Michigan schools continues to increase. CTE programs in Michigan have added 6,278 students since 2015, with the largest increase in enrollment among 11th- and 12th-grade students, state officials said.

The total number of students in CTE courses was 110,316 for the 2017-18 school year, compared to 104,038 in the 2014-2015 school year. The number of CTE programs grew from 1,915 across the state during the 2016-17 school year to 2,027 for the 2017-18 year.

The most popular programs have been in agriculture, healthcare, business management and marketing, which account for 596 CTE programs serving nearly 54,000 high school students across Michigan, state education officials say. 

jchambers@detnews.com

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