Start Young: Community Outreach Through Career Day

Restoration is a busy industry, and most professionals say their focus is on rebuilding the community and setting things right for clients. Being part of that community also means connecting with even its youngest members. Students of all ages dream about their future jobs, and career days represent an excellent opportunity for students and restoration professionals to connect. School counselor Beth Fortner of South Harnett Elementary School in North Carolina says, “Students love dreaming about their futures, especially when you help them to see that their wildest dreams can come true if they are willing to invest in themselves and their education. Many of my students have never heard of many of the careers that are represented at Career Day.”

PHC Restoration participated in South Harnett Elementary School’s Career Day events in 2018 to help students explore a career in restoration, spread the word about the dynamic work restoration professionals do and potentially spark the interest of future professionals. CEO Katie Smith says, “We believe that children need to know there are alternatives to the traditional college path. We hear adults tell us all the time that they never knew this industry existed until they needed our services. We want to change that. We believe kids need to see the honor and satisfaction that comes from helping others and restoring something with your hands.”

Tips for Career Day

  1. Be prepared to answer questions about the job and the equipment.
  2. Answer questions without industry jargon and offer the basic science behind it.
  3. Explain what certifications and degrees are needed for the job.
  4. Relate what knowledge from school applies to the job.
  5. Emphasize how the job improves the community.

Spark Youngsters’ Interest Hands-On

Fortner approached Smith about participating in the Career on Wheels Expo portion of the event. She says the “Touch a Truck” event allows students to meet various professionals who travel to perform their jobs and try out equipment. Smith and her team of two technicians brought along four to five pieces of equipment for the students to try, as well as personal protection equipment (PPE) to wear. “We think it’s important to let our technicians participate in Career Day. While pulling them out of production can be a challenge, it’s one that we see as worthwhile,” says Smith.

Career Day participants also provide background on themselves, their company, their work, what they love most about their jobs, how they decided on their current career, and what degrees or certifications they needed. Smith’s team, like other participants, explained their jobs to kids between the ages of 8 and 11. Smith says, “We explain the science of restoration in an easy-to-understand language. We show them our desiccant, air scrubbers, and air movers in action, and let them try on our PPE.” At the 2018 Career Day event in which PHC Restoration participated, Fortner remembers, “Katie joked that she felt confident her equipment would win the most ‘cool points’ with the kids until she saw the Life Flight helicopter land.”

The kids also got to climb into the box truck and check out the tools. “We give them a quick and basic introduction to what we do and why we do it, and let them ask questions,” Smith says. “Our trucks were quite popular since our air movers provided relief from the North Carolina heat!” Kids often wanted to know what each tool was and what it does, and Smith’s team was there to put it into context, providing them with examples of what could happen to their homes and what services the PHC Restoration team could provide to make things right. “We cover safety and let them try on PPE, we talk about the importance of education and certification, and then we show them some of our equipment and turn it into a mini science lesson for them. Because we speak on their level, they get it, but the great thing about kids is that they’re not afraid to ask questions,” she says.

Fortner adds, “Students report that their favorite part of the event is getting to speak with and ask questions of the participants as well as getting to see big machines in action, especially when they are allowed to handle or climb on equipment. Companies like PHC offer our students these exact opportunities by graciously engaging with and showing a genuine interest in our students.”

Get Involved

Career Day events may already be underway at local schools, and all restoration professionals have to do is ask to participate. Fortner says, “I would strongly encourage restoration professionals to reach out to local schools (at every level) to ask how they can get involved. Are there college and Career Days they could participate in? Could they host an event or donate materials that could be used to highlight the skills needed in their profession? Getting involved may be just as easy as calling to offer a service.”

Smith adds, “As a woman, it’s extremely important to me that kids understand that anyone can learn the skills necessary to perform restoration work. That’s why we send a female lead technician with her work truck and tools. Throughout the day, she had groups of young girls gathered around her, and she made sure to remind them that girls are always welcome in the restoration industry.” If local schools don’t already have a program in place, restoration professionals should approach their community schools about hosting an event or starting a local program to help students explore a hands-on career that gives back to the community where they live.

This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.

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