About 2,800 area high school students from 21 school districts descended upon the Central Lakes College Brainerd campus Friday for the 10th annual Bridges Career Academy & Workplace Connection Career Exploration Day.

More than 250 businesses set up shop at the college Friday morning, showcasing the careers students could experience in a wide variety of fields.

The event was organized into six career clusters, as identified by the Minnesota Department of Education. Those clusters were engineering, manufacturing and technology; business, management and administration; public safety; health sciences; agriculture, food and natural resources; arts, communication and information systems.

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Bridge's Career Exploration Day

KLICK! Photo Gallery - 57 Event Photos

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Sue Hilgart, program manager with the East Region of the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program at the Brainerd Workforce Center, said Career Exploration Day works because it shows students how many careers don't require a four-year college degree.

"It also shows what you can do when you're done with school and apply what you learned," Hilgart said.

Matt Feigum, with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources parks and trails division, said he fielded many questions from students who were interested in working for the DNR but weren't sure which division they preferred.

"They don't know what they want to do," Feigum said. "They just want to do something outside."

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Brainerd Dispatch Booth Photos

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Career Exploration Day would have been a great resource for Feigum when he was in high school, he said. There's tons of options at the event for students who want to work in the outdoors and want to learn more about the different careers available, he said.

The most common question students asked Feigum is what kind of degree or certification they needed to work for the DNR, he said. There's two-year and four-year degree options available, he said, but most of the training employees need, they get on the job.

"We'll teach you how to do it," Feigum said.

Alexis Krebs, sophomore from Upsala High School, said her favorite part of Career Exploration Day was getting to draw blood from a fake arm in the health sciences careers section. Makayla Ganz, also a sophomore from Upsala, said her favorite activity was the massage therapy section. Laurie Breth, sophomore from Upsala, said her favorite part was making slime. All three girls said they had seen some careers Friday they would possibly pursue in the future.

The manufacturing section featured a wide variety of robotics technology students could try out, ranging from robotic arms to Sphero robotic balls. Jessica Gehrke at the Dream It Do It Minnesota booth said the manufacturers do a great job of providing hands-on activities for students to try. Her booth featured a tablet-based game called Build It Better, where students could build a wide variety of items from different materials.

Participating school districts included: Bertha-Hewitt, Brainerd, Browerville, Crosby-Ironton, Freshwater District, Henning, Little Falls, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Menahga, Onamia, Pequot Lakes, Pierz, Pillager, Pillager Charter, Royalton, Sebeka, Staples-Motley, Swanville, Upsala, Wadena-Deer Creek and Walker-Ackley-Hackensack.