LPS students chart their course through Rock the Trades Career Fair

Gabby, Julio, Faythe and Natalie are using skilled trade compasses to point their futures in a positive direction at North Star High School.
The four Navigators joined more than 180 students in North Star’s new aviation hangar for the Rock the Trades Career Fair. Representatives from 26 businesses, community colleges and trade organizations spoke with potential future employees during the event.
Gabby, a junior, said it has been fun to watch Rock the Trades grow since its inception three years ago. The first fair included 80 students and ten organizations. The 2024 event featured a wide array of professions such as agriculture, aviation and automotive technology. It was co-sponsored by North Star’s counseling center and the Aviation and Technical Education Focus Program.
“This is really nice because you can experience so much all in one spot,” Gabby said. “If you have questions, everybody is more than happy to answer them, and there are a ton of good careers for people to choose from. It’s pretty awesome.”
While Gabby was speaking with a representative from one of the organizations, Natalie was working with her fellow SkillsUSA members in another section of the hangar. SkillsUSA students helped businesses set up their booths prior to the fair and answered questions from their classmates. The sophomore said the ability to speak face-to-face with career professionals was a major drawing point.
“This gives you a chance to learn about everything that’s out there,” Natalie said. “It’s really cool to meet people who are in their fields and hear what it’s like to work at their jobs. Talking with them makes a big difference. It really helps prepare you for your future.”
Allison Brown met students from both North Star and Northeast High School as they entered the fair. This was the first year that Rockets were invited to join the fair. Brown, who serves as secretary of North Star’s counseling center, said educators saw the need for Rock the Trades several years ago. They wanted to ensure students who were not on a four-year-college track received the same type of opportunities.
“We have robust college fairs, but there wasn’t an equivalent for students who did not want to choose that path,” Brown said. “Rock the Trades has been purposefully curated to best serve a population of students who are interested in getting to work quickly after high school graduation. Our mission is to connect every student with a pathway to a rewarding, financially-stable career.”
Skilled and technical sciences teacher Amanda Woodward and lead counselor Sherri Svoboda have been two of the driving forces behind the event. Both have been passionate about helping students who are looking to head into trade schools, apprenticeships or on-the-job careers. They were thrilled with the large attendance this year.
“There are more options than kids realize,” Woodward said. “There’s automotive trades, construction trades, aviation, electrician, the list goes on and on. There are thousands of different options for them, and so many of them are available right here in Lincoln. I think this gives them a chance to realize how many opportunities there are.”
“Not every student is planning to go to a four-year college after they graduate,” Svoboda said. “We want to show them that there are other routes to go. There are a lot of high-paying, in-demand jobs that are available to them, and these are good jobs that can become lifelong careers.”
Julio is charting one of those courses. The senior is planning to attend a local flight school next year to become a commercial flight mechanic. He is currently participating in an aviation internship and has learned many aspects of the trade.
“It takes a lot of technology and mechanical systems to be able to have a plane work,” Julio said. “It’s really interesting to see everything that goes into it. This is something I definitely want to do for a career.”
Many organizations provided hands-on activities and short presentations. For example, students who visited one booth could operate an excavator simulator near the hangar’s main door. Students at other tables examined tools, worked with circuit boards and looked over detailed brochures and pamphlets.
Faythe, a junior, said she was impressed with all of the positive conversations she was overhearing at the fair.
“It’s so much fun to see other students figure out what they might want to do for a career,” Faythe said. “You can see it in their faces when they’re talking with someone and you hear how excited they are about what they can do. The fair really helps a lot of people.”
Gabby, a future aviation mechanic, said Rock the Trades has been one of the many activities she has enjoyed at North Star. She felt the academic avenues at Lincoln Public Schools have pointed her future in a positive direction.
“These skills are helpful for just about anything,” Gabby said. “I want to be able to fix my own car. I want to be able to change the oil by myself. I’ve really liked it here at school, because I’m learning the type of problem-solving skills that I’m going to need in life.”
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Published: March 11, 2024, Updated: March 11, 2024

North Star junior Gabby speaks with an employer at the Rock the Trades Career Fair in the high school's new aviation hangar wing. Gabby, a future aviation mechanic, joined more than 180 LPS students at the event. They met representatives from 26 businesses, community colleges and professional organizations.