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2017-04-21 / Features

Skills Fair presents diverse opportunities

By Kirsten Reichel
HTF Staff Writer


The wood shop was a bustling place during the Skills & Knowledge Fair. The wood shop was a bustling place during the Skills & Knowledge Fair. EVELETH – The Eveleth campus of Mesabi Range College was a busy place on April 6th as students from many area high schools including Virginia, Grand Rapids, Cherry, Hermantown, Bigfork, North Woods and Mesabi East attended the Skills & Knowledge Fair, aimed at showcasing the many class opportunities available for those wanting to continue their post-high school education.

Between the Virginia and Eveleth campuses of Mesabi Range College, there were a total of 270 students participating in the event, representing 14 area high schools. The day began at 9 a.m. as buses arrived and students were welcomed and checked in for the class events for which they had pre-registered.

The Virginia campus offered events highlighting math, engineering, speech and theater, instructional aide and business management while the Eveleth campus provided opportunities for high school students to experience a more hands-on line of classes.


Kevin Bauman (left) and Grant Plesha of Hermantown practice emergency medical technician skills. All photos by Kirsten Reichel. Kevin Bauman (left) and Grant Plesha of Hermantown practice emergency medical technician skills. All photos by Kirsten Reichel. While the Skills & Knowledge Fair was touted as a competition, the main focus was to introduce students to the many different career course opportunities available in the community college system. The projects in each class had to be completed using the pre-set guidelines and to the satisfaction of the instructor to determine a winner. The class activities were timed, another factor used in determining the victor in the overall competition.

I opted to attend the Eveleth campus activities based on the events listed: carpentry, emergency medical services, graphic design, industrial mechanical technology, welding, practical nursing, and electrical controls and maintenance. Charlene Norlander, a student advisor at the Eveleth campus, welcomed me to the event and was my guide as we wound our way through the school to the different classrooms.


High school students learn skills of practical nursing care. High school students learn skills of practical nursing care. The graphic design class was well attended and students were working on an assignment in image manipulation. Some of the opportunities in earning an A.A.S. in graphic design include careers in web design, videography, digital imaging and motion graphics.

In the industrial mechanical technology class (more commonly known as millwright), students were concentrating on laser alignment, hydraulics, and testing bearings.

A diploma as a millwright provides a graduate the opportunity to use their skills in the repair of heavy equipment and work in fabricating.

The carpentry workshop, our next stop, was my favorite; nothing like the aroma of fresh cut wood! The kids attending the session were given the assignment to build a tool box to the specifications laid out by the instructor.

As high school attendees were working on their tool box projects, Mesabi Range College students were hard at work on their own assignments. Leo Lukas, an instructor in the wood and carpentry program at the school filled me in on their program, as best as we could, over the shriek of saws and drills.

“This is truly a hands-on class,” said Lukas. “Our students learn how to do everything from laying foundation, reading blueprints, to the carpentry application of building houses start to finish.”

As we were talking I noticed a couple of wooden sheds in the workshop area and asked what they were for.

“We build two sheds a year and donate each of them to a Habitat for Humanity house,” said Lukas. “We also have our students participate in building a Habitat for Humanity house. It’s a win-win for everyone. The students learn the carpentry skills they need to know and the homeowner has help with building their future home.”

The next stop was to observe the emergency medical technician (EMT) class. The only two in attendance at the time were Grant Plesha and Kevin Bauman, both juniors from Hermantown Senior High School. They were practicing revival and transportation skills on a full sized manikin as I entered the room.

Their next project was to don fire fighting gear to get a feel for the weight of the fire-protective suits and the physical prowess needed to function with the added weight of the gear. In addition to learning the skills, participants in this class were also timed on their given assignments so I was fortunate to get a bit of input from them between tasks as to why they chose to participate in the EMT class.

“I’m considering going into the medical field and know that learning the basics are an important first step.” said Bauman.

Plesha said, “I wanted to get more experience in learning CPR and some basic life saving skills because you never know when you are going to need them to help someone.”

Char and I also made a stop at the welding workshop as well as observing part of a lecture on electrical controls and maintenance. Our last stop was a visit to the classroom for the recently added practical nursing program made possible by a donation from Cleveland Cliffs.

The room was busy with students learning how to take patient vitals, move patients (both practiced using manikins), entering medical information on charts along with other practical skills needed for a career in nursing. A comment from one participant was that she didn’t realize how heavy a person could be to move especially having to do so with great care.

It appeared the students were all enjoying the day and intent on fulfilling the required skills to be the victor over their rival school participants. In the end, Virginia High School took top honors with Bigfork in second place and Cherry taking third. No matter the standings, it was a great way to introduce young students to a myriad of career possibilities as they move forward with their education.

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