Essentia Health collaborates with community partners to host Career Exploration Day in Ada

April 09, 2024  By: Caitlin Pallai

high school students exploring a police car

On Tuesday, March 26, the first Sophomore Career Exploration Day was held for area students thanks to a partnership between Essentia Health-Ada and Ada-Borup-West High School.

Katie Vasey, community health specialist at Essentia, approached Allie Lien, a school counselor with Ada-Borup-West Public Schools, about the idea of partnering.

"We wanted to get students into the hospital and other local businesses," said Vasey. "Allie was instrumental in helping to make this happen and it was awesome to have her support."

Group of students looking at tractor

"The reason I wanted to pinpoint our sophomores is because they do not have many career-exploration opportunities available to them," added Lien. "It is an age that is so crucial for exploration, because as juniors they will need to start narrowing down their after-high school plans. The businesses we reached out to were on board right away, so this made the planning process quite seamless."

From 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., 60 sophomore students visited the following local businesses:

  • Essentia Health-Ada
  • Benedictine Living Community-Ada
  • RDO
  • Frandsen Bank
  • Norman County Public Health
  • City of Ada (public works and police department)

Students were divided into groups of 10 and were accompanied by an adult chaperone. They spent about 30 minutes touring each location and learning about available careers, as well as the training and education required. Opportunities for scholarships, tuition reimbursement and internships were also discussed. 

At Essentia Health-Ada, students visited with patient registration, EMS, a physician assistant and a remote team. They also toured areas like imaging and radiology and environmental services.

"Businesses were really inviting to the fact that the kids are going to change their minds throughout their careers," added Vasey. "The focus was about showing kids what options are available locally as they consider their futures. Businesses were willing to engage with students and provide them with valuable insights."

Students returned to school in the afternoon where they wrote reflection papers about their experience.

"The students seemed to really enjoy the day and learned from the businesses in their community," explained Lien. "Many of them didn't realize what kind of work these businesses did, so it was pretty eye-opening for them. They were also surprised to find that several businesses offer opportunities for high school students as a way to get their foot in the door."

"My favorite part of this experience was the tours of all the buildings; it made me feel like I was going to work with them," said one student.

"I learned a lot about different career paths right in my hometown, how to achieve them and why they are important," added another. "My favorite part of this experience was getting to know people better in my town and their careers."

health care providers talking to high school students

Essentia Health hospitals complete a community health needs assessment (CHNA) every three years. This process results in an extensive report that reflects on the work of the previous assessment and identifies new priority community health needs.

During the spring of 2022, Essentia Health-Ada's CHNA committee identified youth mental well-being and access to economic opportunities as its priority needs. 

"This career day was a step toward that workforce-development goal, and we hope to continue it moving forward," said Vasey. "Economic development isn't going away in Ada, and workforce, alongside community health, is always going to be a priority."

The career day proved to be a win-win. Students benefited by learning of their options, and employers made important connections that could prove fruitful down the road. And that was one of the primary objectives, especially because rural health care is facing such an acute shortage of workers.

"I could see myself working for Essentia because that's what I am most interested in," another student explained. "There are so many things in health care that I could go into, so even if I change my mind, there are still plenty more options to go with. One fact I learned today was that Essentia will help pay for school if you work there and want to go to school for nursing."

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