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Dalton Schnieder (left), Travis Lemke, and Junior Coffelt, all freshmen at Swanv

Hands-on experience draws area students

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Hands-on experience draws area students
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Central Lakes College was crawling with students on Friday morning.  It doesn’t sound like an extraordinary event, except there were no college classes for the day.


The campus hosted the fourth annual Bridges Career Exploration Day to provide area high school students with the opportunity explore future career options. 

“We’re not forcing students to fill out college applications today,” said CLC dean of Career and Technical Programs Jeff Wig. “We’re exposing them to careers in an hands-on experience as possible.”

The event, hosted by Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection in partnership with Central Lakes College and the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, was attended by an estimated 2,400 students from 23 area schools extending as far north as Sebeka and as far south as Onamia. 

The event provided students with an interactive experience showcasing the basics of more than 150 career and educational opportunities in everything from hands-on theatrical and videography production to building rocket launchers with CLC’s pre-engineering department. 

“It’s hands-on experience and the kids get excited about that,” said CLC engineering instructor John Saber of his idea to help students build rocket launchers. “It’s a good intro to engineering.” 

Dalton Schneider, a ninth-grader at Swanville High School, agreed. “We saw it walking by and it looked kind of cool, so we decided to check it out,” said Schneider who hopes to pursue a career in computer programming or video game designing. 

Sader said the rocket launchers were a less sophisticated model of the version CLC pre-engineering students might build. “These ones might launch (a rocket) over trees and houses,” Sader said. “If you have a really good rocket design they’ll fly out of site — hundreds of feet.”  

This year’s Career Exploration Day marked the first time the event was hosted at Central Lakes College.  In years past the event has been held at Cragun’s and last year at the Brainerd Area Civic Center. “We knew this would be a challenge having it here (at CLC),” Wig said. “It just allows us to do so much more.” 

The college adjusted the academic calendar, making Friday a non-class day. Students took the day off from their studies while staff and faculty helped facilitate the event. 

Wig said the event highlights area businesses, but in a capacity different than the typical “business fair.” Wig remarked that he enjoyed seeing area businesses who might be competitors in their industries work together to educate students on what it’s like to work in their chosen fields. 

“The key thing for business people is they are not here representing their businesses,” Wig said. “They’re representing their career.” 

SARAH NELSON may be reached at or 855-5879.