We’re always excited to see what’s new at the North Carolina State Fair, and this year it’s the Cultivate a Career Exhibit. Chris Dressler, Manager of the exhibit and explains the goal of the exhibit:The exhibit is just inside Gate 11 off Blue Ridge Road at the NC State Fair
CD: Well, our main goal is to educate the public about careers in agriculture. And some of it is just to let them know that there are all these careers behind the food that they eat. But we're also helping the folks that come in to explore their careers, to find out their career interests by taking a quick interest assesment and then we're helping them o match up their interests with actual careers.”
SFN: How are you going about matching up interests and careers?
CD: When they take the interest assesment, they get a number in six different categories and then we look to see what are the highest numbers and then those letters. Then we're going to look on the careers signs that we have all around the tent and they will match up those with careers and find something that maybe they've never even thought about. Then when they look at the careers they can find out the education that is required and look at the starting salaries and there's also a little information where they can get more information, if they like.
SFN: And I noticed that you have joined the 21st Century here. You have all these signs up that also have the SmartPhone...
CD: That's the QR code. It stands for Quick Response and we decided early on that there's going to be enough people that are looking for that. So when they find one of the careers that they're interested in, each career sign. Each of the 163 different career signs has a QR code. You aim your SmartPhone at that and it will take you to a website that gives you much more information about that career, as well as, most of them have a video, that's attached to it, as well.
SFN: Oh, now that's cool! And then you also have other stations here, within the tent. Let's talk a little bit about those...
CD: We have a couple of little rooms, they're little mini-theatres where they have videos running. They're videos for the different careers and there's a touch screens where they can touch and they can input what their career assesment is and then they can look at the different careers that match their career interests and watch that video on the screen. They're all closed-captioned, too, in case they're audio impaired.
SFN: Now, let's talk about what the thought process was behind this... How did y'all come up with this and what did you hope to achieve?
CD: Well for the past three years we've been Green NC -- we've been looking at different green industries and we started incorporating a little bit of career information into the exhibits. The Department of Agriculture really liked the fact that we're incorporating career information, they said, "Let's see if we can do something to just look at careers" and just to help people get excited. With the economy the way it is, there’s a lot of people who are out of work, and they’re looking for a new job, and there’s some jobs in the ag industry that aren’t just driving a tractor… Actually, there’s a lot of jobs in the ag industry that are not just driving a tractor and some that are pretty surprising. Because there are some that are in agribusiness, where it is traditional business. You've got people that are sending out bills, collecting money, doing desktop publishing, creating websites... all those things that you don't think of being part of ag. But we want people to come in here to discover their career interests, to look at the different careers in the ag industry and even if they don't pick something in the ag industry, they at least have their career interests and we can help them on their way to look at other careers that may be outside of ag as well. We want people to walk away with a sense they they've learned something about themselves and they've maybe have gotten on some type of a pathway towards some type of a rewarding career for them.”
SFN: So you're not necessarily just targeting young people looking at their post-high school education...
CD: Right. Of course one of our main targets is high school students, college age students -- the who don't have a clue what they want to do when they grow up. But also, some of the elementary students are doing well on the assesment and some of the adults are coming in to do the assestments, as well. And I had one grandmother the other day who was in here on the telephone with her grandchild asking the questions from the assesment and assessing that grandchild and was going to take the information back to the grandchild.
SFN: And that was going to be my next question: How has the interest been?
CD: The interest has been great. I am just blown away by the support they we've got from the community here. Everybody who comes in here has been giving us rave results about what we're doing here. They just think it is wonderful. In the past, we've been doing a scavenger hunt where people are learning information and walking away with a t-shirt. But this year, they're not walking away with a t-shirt but they're walking away with a new perspective on life.
Look for the Cultivate a Career tent inside Gate 11 off Blue Ridge Road at the NC State Fair through October 23rd.