Freshmen examine future careers

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

Emily Richardson, with the Virginia Career Education Foundation, explains basic skills every employer looks for in its employees to a group of freshmen from Suffolk’s public schools at the fourth annual Career and Technical Education Professional Student Conference Thursday.

Even though she’s only in the ninth grade, Raven Morris already has plans for her future.

She wants to be a marine biologist — or an actress — and make a good living for herself and her future family.

But Raven said she also realizes it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a good education to get there.

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On Thursday, she learned more about skills she’ll need to be successful in the workplace when she attended the fourth annual Career and Technical Education Professional Student Conference.

“If you’re on time, have a good personality and have a good work ethic, you’re close to having a good job,” Raven said.

Raven was one of about 150 freshmen from Suffolk’s public high schools that attended the conference, which is designed to prompt students to think about their career pathways early in their high school careers in order to better prepare themselves for the real world.

“The idea is to be sure they have a focus,” said Gail Bess, the coordinator of career and technical education for Suffolk Public Schools. “We want them to have a career focus, and then, they can select their classes around that.”

During the conference, students heard about the job market in Suffolk and Hampton Roads and attended presentations from representatives of companies and organizations that are located close to Suffolk, including Paul D. Camp Community College, Tidewater Community College, the Virginia Career Education Foundation, Suffolk Police Department, Hampton Roads Sanitation District, Hilton Garden Inn and Johnson Controls.

“The purpose is to introduce them to careers that Suffolk and Hampton Roads have to offer,” Bess said. “They are talking about what they look for in employees.”

Emily Richardson, with the Virginia Career Education Foundation, told the students every employer is looking for character traits such as trustworthiness and strong work ethic.

“It’s not always about, “Do you have an electrical engineering degree?’” Richardson said. “It’s also about, “Are you a good worker and are you on time?’”

Tezhane Daniels, 15, said the conference opened her eyes to different opportunities she didn’t even know existed.

“I never thought about some of these things until I saw them today,” she said.

Daniels, who wants to be a pastry chef, said she was pleasantly surprised to find out there are culinary classes she can take while in high school to get a jump start on her career.

“I didn’t know they were available here,” she said.

Richardson said she hopes the students who attended the conference understand it’s never too soon to start planning for their careers.

“It’s not too early to do serious thinking and planning,” she said.