Under an instructor’s watchful eye, students from Spirit Lake and Okoboji high schools donned safety gear and hard hats to climb a massive ladder. Down the hall, another group of students put on safety goggles to pick apart heating systems.
Classes start Wednesday for Iowa Lakes Community College students, but on Tuesday about 25 high schoolers gathered in the Sustainable Energy Resources & Technology Center for January Term, or J-Term.
There, they tried out activities related to college programs — Engineering Technology; Electrical Technology; Environmental Studies; Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning; Water Quality and Sustainable Aquatic Resources Technology; and Wind Energy and Turbine Technology.
J-Term isn’t new for the high schools, which continue to offer students in grades 9 through 12 learning experiences outside the school in locations such as the local humane society, but it’s the first year for Iowa Lakes.
“We started this (at Iowa Lakes) to give students an opportunity to learn about the skills,” said Doug Zemler, assistant professor, Electrical Technology.
Students enjoy J-Term, which allows them to do some hands-on learning and then go on field trips to local businesses to see the careers in action.
“I have an interest in wind turbine stuff,” said Doug Maben, a sophomore at Spirit Lake High School. “I definitely think this is probably one of the best classes.”
Maben’s favorite activity was being inside “the hub” — the part of a wind turbine between its massive blades. There’s a real hub learners can step into and examine in the SERT Center, only a few steps off the ground rather than being perched on top of a tower.
“I’m just really excited that they’re here. I just want to show the students that there’s plenty of opportunities—they can come here and learn these skills,” Zemler said. “It doesn’t take a lot of money to come here and learn these careers.”
At the same time, he added, there are “gobs of jobs” in those fields, with high demand for more workers and excellent starting salaries.
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