Shaler Area students being exposed to career opportunities
Students at Shaler Area are dipping their toes into the world with a new after school program hosted by the county Sanitary Authority.
Alcosan’s Workforce and Vocational Exploration, or WAVE, is an after school program for high school students interested in skilled trade careers and STEM exploration, said Twila Simmons-Walker, Alcosan scholastic outreach and education manager. It is free to participating districts.
Students get exposed to the various careers available at Alcosan, some that involve college degrees and others that only require a high school diploma, said LeeAnn Guido, social worker at Shaler Area who brought the program to the school district this year.
In addition to meeting once a week, Alcosan also hosts monthly Hands-On Saturdays workshops where students can apply their training skills and knowledge, as well as hear from career speakers. The Hands-On Saturdays are open to all students, not just those in the Wave program. The next one — Feb. 11 — focuses on engineering.
Guido said at Shaler Area they opened the program to students in their Bridge program for its first year at the school district. The Bridge program is an academic support program designed for students who are struggling academically in one or more classes.
Guido wanted to open students eyes to the opportunities available to them with and without a college degree, like engineer, carpenter, welder, HVAC technician, truck driver, electrical technical and systems analyst. There are jobs at Alcosan that come with on-the-job training and don’t require a four-year college degree, she said.
Whether or not they want to join the ranks at the county Sanitary Authority, Guido said the students in the program are finding it beneficial.
“I’ve talked to them about how they didn’t realize there were careers available in their area of interest, careers they hadn’t even thought about,” she said. “The program is just talking about their future and they see a tangible benefit to it, like I can see how this is going to benefit me in the long run.”
Shaler Area is the first high school outside the Pittsburgh Public Schools system to participate in the after school WAVE program. In its second year, the authority was looking to reach more students around Allegheny County with its workforce exploration program.
“We’ve been looking to branch out to engage other public school districts,” Simmons-Walker said. “They so warmly welcomed us, so we’re grateful to be there.”
If the sanitary authority and district decide to continue the program next year, Guido said she’d like to open it up to all students at the high school.
Rachel Farkas is a Tribune-Review contributor.