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We need to reach out to our young people

March 11, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students at Oak Glen Middle School to tell them a little bit about journalism and what it's like to work at a newspaper.

I'd like to thank Erin VanHorn and her students for welcoming me into their class and giving me such a great experience, especially given how nervous I was.

The students were all attentive, and while I don't know if I inspired any of them to consider a career in journalism, I hope they at least learned a little bit from the visit.

I don't often get asked to talk to groups about this job, especially not with our younger residents, but it definitely got me thinking about a few things.

Growing up, there wasn't a whole lot I remember learning about local jobs and businesses. We were able to attend a couple of college and job fairs in high school, but beyond that there was little in the form of job education.

Now, this could all have changed by now. It has been almost 15 years since I finished high school after all, but with so much focus on career preparation in many of our local school districts, it wouldn't surprise me if schools have periodic presentations for some of their students.

If not, it wouldn't be bad to at least think about it.

To me, one of the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of a job would be to hear it straight from someone involved in that field.

We all dreamed of doing different jobs when we were young. Many of us might have thought about being an astronaut or a cowboy, maybe a world-famous chef.

When I was little, I thought about being a carpenter at one point. I didn't know anything about carpentry or what it involved, so where that came from I'm not sure.

As I got older, the idea of becoming an attorney appealed to me, right up until my senior year of high school when I took a business law elective and realized just how difficult a time I had talking in front of large groups of people.

So, I decided to go with journalism, figuring it would give me a chance to write. Sticking in the print side of the business, I thought, would also give me a little more anonymity than television or radio.

Who knows where I would have ended up if I had an opportunity to learn more about the fields I had an interest in back then.

I know there has been talk in previous years of instituting shadow and mentor programs in our high schools, and those are definitely great ideas. Give the students a chance to see first-hand what is involved in these careers and help them decide whether they are a good fit.

But I think these programs, and visits to schools by area professionals could also serve another purpose.

By hearing from local residents about their jobs, students also have an opportunity to learn about the types of work and careers available in our area.

We are always hearing about how people finish high school, go away to college and then never come back.

Perhaps if they knew what kind of jobs existed in the Ohio Valley, and found something that interested them, it might inspire them to stick around after they complete their education.

It's better to know ahead of time than to get partially into preparing for the field, or even get hired into a job and decide it's not what you wanted, after all.

In a way, it is something that could mirror some of the programs offered by some of our local chambers of commerce.

The Weirton chamber, for example, holds a Leads to Success program in which area business representatives gather and give a presentation on their business.

This helps to not only provide a networking opportunity, but also to better inform others about what your business does.

We know many of the old businesses and industries which have supported this area have disappeared, but there are new opportunities coming.

Whether they are looking at a possible career in steelwork, natural gas, engineering, graphic design, computer programming, law, or even journalism, they are going to need to know what is out there and what is really involved in these jobs.

By figuring out ways to better inform our young residents of these opportunities now, we can perhaps better prepare them for the future.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at

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