Sunday, September 21, 2014

Junior high students get a glimpse of working life


Dr. Michael Trauner, a dermatologist with Sutter Health, speaks to students as part of Harper Junior High School's Career Day on Thursday. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

From page A3 | March 14, 2014 |

Students at Harper Junior High School heard speakers — many of them Harper parents — describe job opportunities in their field, as well as what sort of academic preparation is needed, during the school’s annual Career Day on Thursday.

Dan Hahn, a veteran pilot who has flown jets for United Airlines for two decades, talked about careers in aviation.

“There may be a shortage of pilots in a few years,” Hahn advised the students, because airline traffic is steadily growing, but there are fewer military-trained pilots entering civilian aviation because of the military’s increasing reliance on unmanned drones. He stressed that a college education is important for those thinking of becoming a pilot.

Hahn, who has a child at Harper, works out of San Francisco, flying various categories of United’s passenger aircraft on both domestic and international routes. He said he typically works for three or four days straight — including flight time and rest time between flights. And then he spends several days at home.

“In general, the job is relatively boring” on a typical trip, where everything goes more or less according to plan, he told the students. But he does “get to see some pretty neat stuff” as he travels the world, he added.

A student asked Hahn what he thought had become of the Malaysian airliner that has gone missing somewhere over the South China Sea, and Hahn replied, “We don’t know yet, but they’ll find it.”

Kapi Hart, director of sales at the Hyatt Place UC Davis, and her co-worker Nic Thomas, an executive meeting planner, talked about careers in the hospitality industry. Hart told the students that the Hyatt Place hosts overnight guests ranging from visiting artists who are performing at the nearby Mondavi Center and business professionals working on contracts with UC Davis to youth soccer teams who come to town for a weekend game.

The hotel is always busy at the beginning and end of the academic year, but it also sees an increase in occupancy during the August run of the Yolo County Fair, and on certain weekends that are popular for weddings. Many of the hotel’s business-office staff members have college degrees, she added.

Robert Poppenga, a professor of clinical and molecular biosciences in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine (as well as the father of a Harper eighth-grader), said he enjoyed presenting to students about careers in his field.

“The students asked insightful questions about all of the presentations in our session,” Poppenga said. “It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to share the passion I have for my profession with students who are just starting to explore where their passions and interests might intersect with potential career paths.”

Presenter Sherri Goss, who works at UCD as an environmental health and safety specialist in the area of laboratory animal science, came dressed in a lab coat to talk about her field.

“The students were great listeners and asked very thoughtful questions,” she told The Enterprise. “Not only did I feel I was providing information to students about a career opportunity they may not have considered or may not have had prior knowledge about, the experience also provided me with validation that I have chosen the best career for myself.”

Goss added, “My son is an eighth-grader at Harper and he had the opportunity to hear from people in the performing arts professions” during a presentation in another classroom.

Presenter Charles Alpers, a research chemist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s California Water Science Center, said, “I was very impressed that the kids were paying such close attention — I got some excellent questions such as ‘What is the most dangerous aspect of your job?’

“I had to think about that because, of course, at the U.S. Geological Survey we take lots of precautions to reduce risks, but there is always some inherent danger in what I do — going into abandoned mines that could collapse, and sampling hazardous materials such as mine wastes with abundant arsenic and mercury.

“So I had to be sure to let them know that we do everything possible to make things safe, but there is always some risk in any scientific field work.”

— Reach Jeff Hudson at or 530-747-8055.




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