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Posted June 13, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Sherando showcases area firms

EDC project meant to inform students abut career options

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

Which local company built the parking garage for the Washington Nationals' new baseball stadium?

Which one was a major supplier of instrumentation and software for testing athletes at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing?

Did you know that Coke bottle on your desk was likely made in Winchester?

Sherando High School students now know these fun facts and more thanks to a local business showcase in the school's cafeteria sponsored by the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission.

The display featured information on 10 local companies, including the types of jobs each offers, their educational requirements and pay scale -- from $12 an hour for machinists with a high school diploma and vocational training; to $35,000 and up for human resources managers and nurses with a bachelor's degree; to six-figure salaries for experienced facilities managers, medical professionals and software sales engineers.

Sherando was chosen for the project because it had Frederick County's highest concentration of students in the career-technical program, according to EDC Executive Director Patrick Barker.

Students reviewed the showcase, either with their classes or on their own, then answered a series of questions about what they learned. Those who answered all of the questions correctly were entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card from Sheetz or Subway.

The students also completed a survey about their future plans, including whether they would consider returning to the area to work after graduation.

Barker said the first-year project was an extension of the commission's career awareness program, which provides tours of area businesses annually in the spring and fall.

"The showcase was designed to serve as reinforcement of some of the careers that are available locally, the types of jobs that are here, the educational requirements and maybe more importantly for the students, the types of wages they offer," Barker said.

Rob Hahn, president of Fabritek, a Winchester machine and fabrication shop that makes, among other things, gun mounts for U.S. Army Hummers, said nearly all of the company's 62 employees are products of area public schools.

"We always have a need for machinists and fabricators," Hahn said. "Students can come to us for vocational training or to get an apprenticeship, even if they're not a graduate. And for those who want to go on to study engineering, drafting or design, or learn computer skills, we have a place for them, too."

Hahn said each summer Fabritek takes on at least one engineering or vocational training student for an apprenticeship.

A group of students from Sherando's Business and Marketing Department assisted with the showcase project by distributing survey copies to students in their study halls, grading the tests and tabulating the surveys, said director Deborah Carper.

One of Carper's students, Caleb Ritenour, 18, won a $50 gift card from Sheetz for answering all of the questions correctly.

"I definitely learned a lot of about the jobs that you can get around here," said Ritenour, who will enroll at the University of Virginia in the fall. He said following graduation from the school's engineering program, he "wouldn't mind coming back here and giving back to the community where I started."

More than half of the 110 students in grades 9-12 who returned the survey said they would at least consider returning to the area to work after graduation.

"I think what it says is that there's a window of opportunity there to educate them about local career options," Barker said.

"We understand that some will want to leave the area to go to college or just to get some new experiences, but we want them to understand that there are good career options here."

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