Diego Bartilone came to Cal Expo on Wednesday with the future his future on his mind. On this day, the possibilities seemed wide open.
Bartilone, a 13-year-old attending Sierra Junior High School in Sacramento, is fascinated with how things work. He's in a mechanical shop class at Sierra, and he loves engineering.
Like the hundreds of other middle and high schoolers who attended the two-day student career event CareerGPS 2012 Wednesday and Thursday at Cal Expo, Bartilone is just starting to think about what he wants to do when he grows up.
"Today, I saw a lot of opportunities for everything," he said. On Wednesday, Bartilone stopped at an architecture firm's display with its 3-D models and computer tools, and he was hooked. Now, he thinks of becoming an architect. "It really changed my perspective," he said. "It gave me a new idea on everything it had to offer."
The second annual CareerGPS, hosted by the local educator-employer nonprofit LEED, or Linking Education with Economic Development, drew about 7,500 students from across the Sacramento area, who received an early look and a possible headstart at a potential career.
"It's an opportunity for young people to synchronize their training with the demands of the workforce," said Dave Butler, LEED chief executive officer. "This gives them the ability to fine-tune their future."
And it gives Sacramento-area employers the chance, Butler said, to position themselves early as employers of choice in the region.
"Whether it's Sutter Health, SMUD or PG&E, they're all using this as a platform," Butler said. "They want to get in front of young people as soon as possible."
Employers in health care, energy, engineering and construction, the public and private sector, colleges and vocational programs, all talked about their trades with the young students, hoping to inspire them along the way.
Twenty-five years ago, Terry Castillo had just finished a stint in the military and was looking for work when she learned about an apprenticeship program for heavy-equipment operators.
Today, a quarter-century and a career as an equipment operator later, Castillo is an apprenticeship director for Operating Engineers Local 3.
The local offers training in crane and construction equipment operation, heavy duty repair, concrete pumping and other heavy-equipment operation and repair at its training facility in Rancho Murieta.
Then, as now, Castillo said, "apprenticeships are the best-kept secret. Not everybody is cut out for college. This is the other four-year degree," Castillo said. "It's hands-on training. We tell them that there are options open for them."
Michael Iredale, a registered nurse at Sutter Health's Center for Health Professions in Sacramento, shared stories and advice with students considering a nursing career. One of the students was obviously impressed.
"She stayed 20 minutes asking questions about what it was like to be a nurse," Iredale said. "You could see it was a career-defining moment for her. Maybe a path had opened for her. It was really exciting to see that."
Rebecca Reibel, of Cool, a student at Golden Sierra Junior High School in Garden Valley, took a spin on a heavy-equipment simulator at Castillo's booth.
"I really like building stuff," she said, and she doesn't need to look far for inspiration: "My aunt and grandfather build bridges."
Reibel's aunt, Lori Burne, is president of Shingle Springs-based Burne Engineering Services. The engineering firm designs and erects bridges across the north state.
Reibel said she plans to follow in her aunt's footsteps.
"I love hands-on activity and building things to better the community and help people," she said.
Someday, she just might get the chance.