Photo: Lewisburg students work computers that simulate careers where Southwest Tennessee Community College offers programs. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
So if your high school student can’t get to a college campus to check out what is available, in the case of Southwest Tennessee Community College, the school can come to you, or at least a part of it.
The Memphis-based community college has put in operation a trailer which Mississippi recruiter Teresa Lara calls a mobile career exploration lab. The Southwest Express is taken to all of the area high schools and highlights some of the programs offered by the community college.
Lara said simulators offer the students some experience that may help determine a potential career path.
“Inside we have a flight simulator that highlights our aviation program, a welding simulator, a forklift for some of the automotive programs that we offer, and four different computers that simulate different programs that we offer on the technical side at Southwest,” Lara said.
The Southwest Express, one of two similar trailers used by the college, recently visited a DeSoto County school for the first time, with its stop at Lewisburg High School.
“I have literally been waiting for this to come out and get it to Lewisburg as soon as it was possible,” said career coach Laurie Waring. “It might only be for a few minutes, but it might expose the students to something they’ve never seen before.”
When the students enter the lab, they can choose from several computers or simulators to get a taste of what a particular career study might lead them to. One particular program is aviation, with students able to use a flight simulator to take off, fly, and land an “airplane.”
Other highlighted items are a forklift simulation, Mechatronics, and industrial maintenance. Waring, in particular, was glad to see a simulator highlighting a health career that allowed the student to “touch” and turn a “heart.”
“The moment I saw it and heard about it, was back in February when I saw the hands-on 3-D, like opening up a heart and looking at that and feeling the heartbeat,” Waring said.
Lara said, that for whatever reason, many students in DeSoto County overlook what Southwest has to offer and at a short distance from home.
“A lot of our DeSoto County students don’t get to the Memphis area and explore any college options other than what’s in Mississippi,” said Lara. “We are so close being right in Memphis and we have over 110 programs to offer students. We just wanted to use it as a career exploration tool as well as a recruiting tool to help students see what options they have available.”
And Waring said the Southwest Express has been received well by her students.
“The kids have loved it. They have really enjoyed the flight simulator for sure,” Waring said. “The heart has been a huge thing, feeling the heart beat on your fingertip through a 3-D screen, being able to turn it and watch it for those kids who are science-minded, they’ve loved it.”
Lara said the Southwest Express will be visiting other DeSoto County schools to show what’s available for future careers and how the college may be the place to start on that career path.