Students get peek at future through job shadowing

DAN HEATH/STAFF PHOTOAT&T External Affairs Director Ed Bergstraesser addresses Stafford Middle School students who took part in a job shadowing program to promote STEM-based (science, technology, math and science) careers. Thirty students spent time at local companies to learn more about the type of jobs available in the North Country and the skills that can help land those jobs. 

PLATTSBURGH — A group of 30 eighth-grade students at Stafford Middle School recently took part in a job-shadowing program, thanks to support from AT&T. 

Stafford Middle School family and consumer science teacher Cathy Whalen said the goal was to learn about career paths available locally and the skills required to land those jobs.

Job shadowing is meant to provide students a realistic picture of potential careers, which can help them as they plot their path through high school and beyond.

Students visited companies such as Swarovski Lighting, SpencerARL, Jeffords Steel, Boire Benner Group and Mold Rite Plastics.


Pierce Moran, Andrea Alger and Grace Racicot all spent time at Boire Benner, a local marketing firm.

Moran said he learned more about his interests, including graphic design and computer coding.

"They gave me more background knowledge about what I want to do, which is reassuring to what I want to do when I grow up," he said.

Racicot said she is interested in photography. She appreciated the chance to see the team working with its high-end photography and video equipment.

"It was really cool to see how the cameras they use work," she said.

Alger is interested in graphic design. It was revealing, she said, to see the team there go through the process of scanning pictures so they can work on them through their computers.

The entire group later spent time at Mold Rite Plastics. Nick Flora said he was impressed by the level of automation on display at that company.

"I liked how complicated it was and how everything worked together," he said.

They all agreed the job-shadowing program was a beneficial experience and recommended it for future students.


The program was organized and supported by the North Country Workforce Partnership, North Country Chamber of Commerce, North Country Workforce Development Board, CV-TEC, SUNY Plattsburgh Upward Bound and Clinton County Employment and Training.

AT&T gave a $5,000 donation. Whalen said the teachers and students were grateful to AT&T for its support, as they would not have had the opportunity without it.

AT&T External Affairs Director Ed Bergstraesser said the company and the AT&T Foundation have a commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning programs, especially at the high-school and junior-high level.

"We feel it is important to cultivate the technologists of tomorrow," he said.

A bonus is that they might later help AT&T realize its goal to be known as a technology company as much as a phone company, he said.

"This program meets those demands head on," Bergstraesser said. "The students really get hands-on exposure to the kind of careers they might want to embark on, and AT&T is proud to be a part of it."


North Country Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Susan Matton told the students that workforce development has long been one of their focal points.

"What businesses need is, they need you. They need you to be able to work for them so their businesses can succeed," Matton said.

"You're very important to this equation. You are a key to having this equation be successful."

That is particularly important in STEM fields, with the U.S. Department of Labor estimating there will be 2.4 million unfilled jobs in those fields by 2020.

That means more opportunities for students who pursue a career in those fields, she said.


North Country Workforce Development Board Executive Director Sylvie Nelson got involved after the chamber reached out.

She works closely with the team at OneWorkSource to help potential employees find jobs and employers find qualified workers.

"We are focused on ensuring the region has a trained workforce, both in the short term and long term," she said.

She was pleased when the staff at Stafford Middle School jumped at the chance to take part, as it is important to help students identify an interest in STEM fields early on.

Showing them what's available locally can only help, Nelson said.

"I believe their comments show it achieved its goal," she said.

New York State Assemblyman-elect Billy Jones said he will soon be working to represent the North Country in Albany.

"One of my main concerns is to ensure that you (students) have an opportunity to have a good-paying job when you get out of school," he said.

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