Paul Beck, a radiology engineer in the cancer center at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital recently proved to be of great interest to a group of visiting students from Central Magnet School.
While on a tour of the facility, the students crowded around the doorway of the office where Beck was working and spent the better part of 10 minutes listening to how his job is to ensure the radiation equipment is finely tuned to best treat patients without causing undue harm.
For sophomore Audrey Huffman, it was an opportunity to make a connection with someone working in the industry, and she hopes to speak with Beck further when she begins work on her senior thesis, she said.
"I like all things to do with radiology," Huffman explained. "The way he was talking about it seemed really cool."
Huffman isn't the only Rutherford County student who has made connections with industry professionals recently.
During the month of October, the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and its Rutherford Works program have facilitated a variety of industry tours for local middle and high students.
In fact, approximately 300 students participated, which included a week dedicated to health care, a week to manufacturing and a week to trades.
"We know that if students can see it, they can be it," said Trisha Murphy, the education and workforce development coordinator for the Rutherford Chamber. "We want to give students a broad spectrum of career options within high demand, high wage sectors that have the propensity to thrive in Rutherford County for many years."
The industry tour project is a joint effort between the Chamber, Rutherford County Schools and local businesses.
Various teachers signed up their classes for the tours, and the Chamber worked to secure industry partners including manufacturers such as Nissan, Bridgestone and Schwan Cosmestics, to healthcare partners such as Saint Thomas Rutherford and Tristar StoneCrest, and trades partners such as Ole South Properties and the College of Concrete and Construction at Middle Tennessee State University.
"Across the board, our industry partners welcome the opportunity to begin early conversations around industry demand and growth opportunities," Murphy said, adding "A secondary purpose of the tours is to establish partnerships and opportunities for collaboration between industry and Rutherford County Schools' educators."
The experiences prove valuable for students because it allows them to see experience applied examples of the lessons they are learning in the classroom, Rutherford teachers said.
"My eighth-grade STEM students were working on building 13 different gear trains," said Dawn Powell, the technology education teacher at Christiana Middle School, "and I knew they could connect their classwork with the real world by seeing those same gear trains in action in the robots at Nissan's battery plant."
Riverdale Health Science teacher Josh Haley took his students to tour H30 Aquatics.
"My students were able to learn about the use of water as a therapy agent, see multiple health professionals in action, experience aquatic therapy and aquatic exercise firsthand," Haley said, "and meet a small business owner who impressed upon them the importance of being a part of the community and gave them an idea of what it might be like to own their own business."
Rutherford County Schools and the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce have other projects on the horizon to help students and parents make decisions about future careers.
In November, the representatives from the business community, the chamber and the high schools will visit each of the local middle schools for "Eighth-Grade Pathway Fairs," which will give students opportunities to discuss and learn about various career pathways available in the community prior to choosing their classes for high school.
More information about those events will be shared with parents soon so they can talk to their children about what they learned.