The fall Community Celebration of Excellence breakfast on Wednesday had the theme, “Launching The Future.”
Speakers during the panel discussion at the Thelma Keller Convention Center were Zach Mette, a CEO program alumni; Dr. Eric Bloemer, a Health Occupations alumni and Dick Wente, a CTEC program alumni. The discussion was moderated by Bob Schultz.
The first question posed by Schultz was in regards to the programs each participated in and how they launched their futures. Mette said that CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) instilled in him networking and that you never stop learning.
Bloemer said the Health Occupations program gave him exposure to the hospital environment and medical fields. Wente said he wouldn’t have made it onto the stage if it weren’t for the Construction Trades Education Curriculum program (CTEC).
“I think CTEC pointed me to what I want to do in life,” he said. “The program brought the construction industry to my mind and showed me what career paths are out there and what I can take.”
Wente said the program shows where to find a career right here in Effingham County in the trades.
Schultz then asked the panelists what was different about the programs they were in compared to other high school classes.
Bloemer said that the Health Occupations class started off in the classroom learning basic medical knowledge and nursing skills, spending time on the floor in a hospital, and putting those skills to use in a real environment with the opportunity to earn a CNA license.
Wente said CTEC was unlike any class that he had taken before and that there were a multitude of teachers, including contractors on job site visits.
“It’s crazy to think that we got knowledge and experience from 20-plus contractors at one point in time,” he said. “Everyone had so much to give us.”
He said they had a lot of responsibility in that class and, as a whole, it was unlike anything he had ever taken — even more different than some of the college courses he has taken.
Mette said CEO opens the door to the community in terms of employment opportunities, charities and benefits that the community offers.
Schultz then asked the panelists what advice they would have for those entering the programs.
Wente said CTEC will teach you whether you are going to swing a hammer or be involved in that industry or if you will call another guy to fix it for the rest of your life.
“Keep your mind open. You’re going to learn an insane amount of knowledge in a short period of time,” he said. “And you have to be ready to obtain that knowledge and be willing.”
Mette said waking up early in the morning for the CEO program as a 17- or 18-year-old is a big change.
“For anyone debating it, CEO will make you get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “You grow into a person that does things you normally wouldn’t do like speaking in public.”
Bloemer said for those who have an interest in the medical field, the Health Occupations program is a great place to start.
“It provides a lot of exposure in the medical field and lets you figure out what you do or don’t like,” he said, adding that one of the hardest things as a high school senior is figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life.
Schultz asked the panel how they think the community can connect the older generation with the younger generation in Effingham County.
Bloemer believes that comes down to promoting economic growth and prosperity.
“If we can continue to create economic prosperity, that will help grow the job market in the medical field in particular, which will help in having that job availability,” he said.
Bloemer added continuing to foster events like the ones downtown and music festivals — things that young people can enjoy — is key as well.
Mette said from a small business perspective he believes, the community needs to evaluate shopping locally and residents need to invest money into their own community.
“Sometimes a simple click makes a difference between prosperity for an individual in town,” he said. “I think that will be a rising issue in the coming years.”
Wente said one of the biggest ways is to show students in the area there are jobs here.
“That’s what it takes to keep people here is a good job and a good community,” he said. “With these three programs, that’s the best way to do it.”
The final question asked how the programs connected them to the next generation within their chosen professions.
Mette said during his first week in CEO, he remembers Schultz came to his CEO class to talk about how to carry on conversations.
“Any business leader or business owner is looking forward to the next generation being a group of individuals that will not only communicate with the next generation but share a similar interest,” Mette said.
Bloemer said hospitals are a mixing pot of generations who take care of the youngest citizens and older ones.
“Bringing those generations together makes it a good place to meet a variety of other people,” he said. “And it also helps in terms of creating connections within the medical field.”
Wente said through the class he was able to network and obtain a job that way.
“I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of classes or programs that really offer that type of incentive or network abilities that you can get through CTEC.”