I met Jack (not his real name to protect him from truant officers) last week in York, PA. He is a high school junior enrolled in a work/study program that lets him explore possible careers while attending high school. Every other day he goes to work in the real world before returning to the classroom the next. I met him on his work day at an industry conference we were both attending. I was excited to see a bright-eyed, bushy-haired kiddo amongst my graying peers. I sought him out and learned his story. He was attending the conference to explore possible career options; I was there to get better at my career. It turns out we both needed each to achieve our respective goals.
It's been 33 years since I installed my first water garden and for the last 24 years it's been my chosen profession. You could say I've been around the pond a few times! As for Jack, he's still a tadpole. But alas, we were swimming in the same water at an event organizers have lovingly dubbed Pondeminium.
Where Jack needs inspiration in his career, I'm just looking for continued motivation in mine. I was excited to see Jack front-and-center on day two. Yes day two! Apparently he liked what he heard so much the first day, he just had to play hooky from school the next. That's my kind of kid right there!
I'm motivated to do my job better for the Jacks of this world. That is, kids who for whatever reason learn better outside the classroom than in it. I went to college and loved everything about school besides the classes. I'm not alone in my feelings and society is starting to accept that not everyone fits into the standardized school box. It's why work study programs in high school exist and why the emerging field of Gap Year Programs are exploding. Companies are creating programs for the so-dubbed "Gap" year between high school graduation and college or career. Truth be told, we need the Jacks of this world in my industry as much as so many rudderless youth need us. Not enough new blood is coming into almost all professional trades as this digital generation enters the work force. We've had people out with our crews that have never even so much as held a shovel in their 18 years on this earth! That's scary!
I was once like Jack and ponds provided me the direction I needed. Today, providing that direction for others is what gives me a lift. Up with the old in with the new is my new found motivation. I'm inspired by a need in both our industry for new blood and society's desperate need to find alternative outlets other than college or the military for upcoming generations. I'm tasking my organization to organize ourselves in a way we can be a GAP year option for young adults or even a second career option for those ready for a new challenge.
If you think you or someone you know might be interested in the opportunities that could come from the kind of real world education that the water feature world provides, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to see what kinds of things a career with water features entails, check out our On-Line Academy at http://training.aquascapeinc.com/.
As for Jack, I told him to go back to class and finish high school. College may or may not be in the cards for him. Ponds may or may not be in his future. But I'm excited to take what I've learned by doing what I do and help others who want to, to do the same. Let me know if that's you!