Issue: April 2008
In This Issue:
This May, Leonela Diaz, 22, will graduate from Newark’s New Jersey Institute of Technology with a degree in biology. One young woman, one diploma, one promising future. Yet Diaz is more than simply another mortarboard in a crowd of eager young grads. She is the face of tomorrow’s workforce in New Jersey; the daughter of first-generation immigrants of Dominican and Cuban descent who came to America to make a better life for their family. Diaz, who changed her major from biomedical engineering to biology after a semester abroad in Valencia, Spain, is now destined to contribute her skills and knowledge to the high-tech economy. “My parents didn't have the opportunity to educate themselves in their country like I did,” explains Diaz, a 2003 graduate of Memorial High School in West New York. “I am so excited for the opportunities I have.”
Leonela also represents opportunity for New Jersey’s employers. The demographics of the New Jersey workforce are changing. Immigrants, particularly Hispanics, are fueling New Jersey’s labor market and prompting the state’s employers to consider the changing pool of job candidates. “All of us that look at the data acknowledge and understand that the demographics of the workforce are changing,” says Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. “The emerging workforce and the workers that are really hungry to get ahead need skill sets to help them engage in the kind of economy that would be best for New Jersey’s future.”
For Leonela, who benefited from a four-year college scholarship ($1,000 per semester) from the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, the future looks bright. She has applied to Dominican College in New York City to pursue an advanced degree in physical therapy, after which she will no doubt join the high-tech workforce in a few years. “I would like to have my own physical therapy business,” she says. “I like doing different things. I might be involved in helping out schools or talking to students and helping to motivate them. They need to know that there are people who are willing to help and support them if they do well academically.”
Leonela Diaz was first introduced to biology and biomedical engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology during the summer of her junior year through the Educational Opportunity Program, a state-funded program for New Jersey students who are educationally and economically challenged and who are greatly underrepresented in science and technological fields. Leonela spent a summer exploring her career options and her college expectations as part of the Summer Academic Enrichment Program.
So, how about you? Summer’s just around the corner! How are you going to spend it? The possibilities are endless, particularly when it comes to summer programs on college campuses. Take, for instance, the Rutgers University Career Summer Institute to explore nontraditional careers. Last summer, 100 students across the state spent a week at the institute learning about different kinds of nontraditional career choices. While the deadline for applications to this summer’s program has already passed, it’s worth learning about for the future, and investigating online.
Did you know that many nontraditional careers, defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as any occupation where one gender comprises 25% or less of those employed, also happen to be areas of demand in the New Jersey workforce? For example, women make up only 2.3% of employees in the building trades, and 10% of the engineering workforce, and 17% of the technology workforce—all areas of need for the state. In addition, men comprise only 17% of the workforce in nursing, and 11% of those employed in early childhood education. Don’t be afraid to think outside the career box! And for lots of great information and demonstrations on the building trades, visit the Construction Industry Career Day at Brookdale Community College on April 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. See the “Resource Corner” of this newsletter for how to register.
We couldn’t possibly talk about summer camps and nontraditional career opportunities without mentioning the Construction Industry Advancement Program’s (CIAP) Future Civil Engineers Camp. This five-day summer camp, for high school juniors who will be seniors in the fall, is held on The College of New Jersey campus and enables students to work with faculty, students and companies to better understand the civil engineering field. To be eligible for camp, students must rank at the top 10% of their class, have successfully completed three years of college prep mathematics, and have an interest in engineering. Find out how to apply in the “Resource Corner” section of this newsletter.
Meanwhile, CIAP also offers 35 college civil engineering students some great summer gigs. These students are hired by heavy highway construction contractors who are responsible for keeping New Jersey’s infrastructure sound by building and repairing bridges, highways, tunnels, and utilities. Justine Marie Lentini, a senior at The College of New Jersey, shares her summer 2007 civil engineering experiences:
Justine, a senior at The College of New Jersey and two-time recipient of the CIAP scholarship, interned this year with Moretrench. Justine was primarily assigned to the Owl’s Head WPCP in Brooklyn, where she was responsible for assisting the superintendents, general contractor and project engineers to ensure that the work was done according to the specified contract. Justine also worked on the Dey Street project near the World Trade Center in Manhattan. “This summer has truly pushed me forward both with my civil engineering career and as a person. At Moretrench, I have begun to experience endless aspects of construction, which I had only read about (and sometimes never heard of) before,” explains Justine. “Travel to and from the work at different construction sites throughout New York City has also challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and move forward.” Justine first became interested in civil engineering when her father started his asphalt paving company, Lentini Paving Contractors, Inc. In high school, she would assist with take-offs and bids for various types of jobs.
Ask any expert and they’ll tell you that finding the right summer program takes some research. The good news, though, is that there are literally hundreds of programs for high school students to explore careers, achieve academically, hone their talents or experience something entirely new. With a little help from eHow’s Education Editor, here are some tips for how high school students can find college summer programs: