Pardeeville students dig into career options at fair

February 25, 2019
Pardeeville High School freshmen Annie Achterberg, left, and Sophia Parker receive job information from Wilderness Resort director of attractions Chris Ebben during the school's career fair Friday.

PARDEEVILLE — Collin Zuehlke of Miron Construction knew exactly what to say to the freshmen who visited his booth Friday at Pardeeville High School’s fourth annual career fair.

“What do you like to do?” he asked a group of four that included Tash Gray, whose answer was that he enjoys playing video games.

“How would you like to play real-life video games?” Zuehlke said. “Some of us even get paid to fly drones.”

Afterward, Gray said he stayed at Zuehlke’s booth for a bit longer than he probably would have if Zuehlke hadn’t framed Miron’s job opportunities in the way that he did — jobs that include work in the office or in the field.

Gray’s strongest subject is math, he said, so Miron’s jobs in accounting or estimating might someday be a good fit for him. His favorite video games are the team-oriented ones he plays with his friends, he added, meaning that an internship in virtual construction could work for him, too.

In such employ, Gray would provide assistance to design-build teams facilitating 3D and 2D coordination, Zuehlke said.

Not far from Miron’s booth stood Kip Gutke of Wisconsin Operating Engineers Training Center, a union-based business in Coloma representing more than 10,000 people employed by contractors all over the state, he said.

Both Gutke and Zuehlke informed their student visitors that if they assume skilled labor doesn’t pay well from the start, they’re dead wrong.

“Our apprentices start out making $25 or $27 an hour,” said Gutke, who walked the students through heavy equipment simulations complete with a wheel and video screen — one of the more popular stops among the 200 or so students who participated in the fair.

“Their pay goes up significantly the longer they stick with it,” Gutke said of operating engineers. “Pros include good benefits and the accomplishment of building something, and the cons include working in bad weather and all of the traveling.”

Freshmen Sophia Parker and Annie Achterberg stopped first at a booth for the health care delivery system SSM Heath, where they were told that registered nurses make $50,000 to $80,000 a year.

“I found out I would need six years of education to get the job,” said Parker, who right now is more interested in teaching kindergarten than working in health care.

Achterberg was interested in the presentation because her dad works in physical therapy.

“That’s what I want to do,” she said of physical therapy. “I don’t want to do anything that involves needles — nothing in surgery.”

After their stop at SSM Health, they learned about jobs at Wilderness Resort from Chris Ebben, director of attractions. He told his visitors that Wilderness in Lake Delton employs 1,500 people in the summer and 1,000 currently.

“We hire as young as 14 years old,” Ebben said of jobs including work in the resort’s restaurants, arcade and golf course. “I tell them to think of the job they really want, and we probably have it.”

High school counselor Crystal Huset said finding what interests the students is essentially the whole idea. The career fair not only involved high school students but fourth-graders who played “job fair bingo” and eighth-graders who, along with the freshmen, worked on career research projects.

“There’s such a wide variety of businesses to choose from,” Huset said of the represented fields including the military, education, manufacturing, health care, customer service, construction, agriculture and finance. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for them find what they like.”