Eric Lund skipped school last week to begin his new career as a disc jockey.
His career lasted five days. Lund is one of 88 students in the Juneau-Douglas High School project-based Phoenix program who job shadowed with 52 Juneau professionals.
``(You) get to know what job you're interested in and get a feel for that,'' said Lund, a freshman who spent the week choosing compact discs, attending interviews and talking on KTOO. ``It's something you couldn't do in school.''
This is the second year the Phoenix students dedicated a week or more to job shadowing. It may be the last.
The Phoenix program ends this year and the future of the job shadowing project is unknown, said Barb Conant, a JDHS counselor who helped organize the program.
Job shadowing is part of a trend in education to get students to look at careers while they're in high school, Conant said.
The trend is partially driven by employers and colleges. Students coming straight from high school don't always have the skills they need for the University of Alaska vocational program, said Gary Bowen, who heads the program.
``Generally, (students) are not real well-prepared,'' Bowen said. ``Most are prepared adequately to work with their hands, but with the math and English, there's some remedial work required.''
Bowen believes the job shadowing program is good step. Seeing what professionals do firsthand can provide students a strong sense of direction, he said.
``How will (students) know what people do for a living if they don't learn about it?'' Bowen said.
Many students feel the school is already doing all it can, in the classroom, to prepare them.
``I think they're doing a pretty good job,'' said Lund. He said English class has improved his sentence structure and tech class has taught him computer skills.
``Those are the only things the school could really do,'' he said.
That's where job shadowing comes in.
At the Acupressure Institute of Alaska, JJ Cunnington tried hands-on learning -- hands on someone's neck. Using pressure points and essential oils, he learned to release tension in patients in just a few minutes, under the careful supervision of acupressurist Shayla Walker.
``The coolest part is that I can actually sit there and give someone a 15-minute treatment that will relax the neck and back,'' said Cunnington, who is considering studying acupressure after high school.
Learning on the job was ``much better, by far,'' than sitting in the classroom, Cunnington said.
``It's a lot more interesting and definitely more fun. It feels like I'm actually out there doing something worthwhile.''
Some students ended up watching more than working. Freshman Guy Barnes and sophomore Aren Musarra at the Juneau Automated Flight Service Station could examine flight plans, discuss job expectations and listen to radio transmissions with pilots. However, strict Federal Aviation Administration regulations meant that they couldn't actually input data or communicate over the radio.
While his job shadow experience may have been more passive than some, Musarra was still enthused about the prospect of a career in his chosen field.
``The guys up in the tower only work four hours a day, and they make a lot of money,'' Musarra said.
The job shadowing week is a chance to try a career before investing years of further education into it, said senior Nobu Koch, ``so you won't go out and make the biggest mistake of $30,000.''
Koch and three other students helped National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Bonita Nelson at the Auke Bay Laboratory prepare activities for Seaweek. Like most professionals Conant called, Nelson was eager to work with the students.
``I think the reason we do it is because it's so worthwhile and we probably wish someone would have done it with us,'' Nelson said.
Nelson believes students can only understand certain aspects of the job by working at the lab.
``They're seeing us in action, the good, bad, the ugly,'' Nelson said.
She was pleased with the job shadow students. They worked well independently and had the academic skills needed, Nelson said. But she thinks many high school students lack discipline.
``Independence is good,'' Nelson said. ``Too much independence is bad. People don't see why they have to follow rules.''
In some cases, job shadowing has given students a new respect for teachers. Freshman Carl Broderson assisted in Phil Loseby's kindergarten class at Riverbend Elementary School.
``Little kids are vicious, but adorable,'' said Broderson, who memorized 35 Pokemon characters in four days, without even trying. ``I used to think just handling one kid was difficult, but handling an entire herd of them has taught me how easy one can be.
``If I can handle this, then I can handle just about anything.''
Kai Ottesen and Aera Hoffman are JDHS students who job shadowed at the Empire last week.
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