BY BENJAMIN FANG
Hundreds of high school students in Long Island City connected with professionals in variety of industries at a networking fair on November 30.
Energy Tech, an early college and career-focused high school, collaborated with the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Long Island City Partnership on the event. Founded in 2013, the school has a six-year program and partnership with LaGuardia Community College that offers students a path to an associate degree.
The school specializes in preparing students in engineering and technology fields. Con Edison and National Grid are two of Energy Tech’s founding partners, providing internship opportunities and helping mold the school’s degree model.
Laura Miller, the school’s industry liaison, said Energy Tech hosted its first networking fair last year, when the school welcomed its first 12th grade graduating class.
“We realized that in order to create a substantial and robust work-based learning opportunity for our students, we would need to increase the number of partnerships that we have across the city, particularly in Queens and Long Island City,” she said.
Miller said their two goals were to find more partnering companies and spread the word about the school and to offer students an “authentic networking experience.” Through the fair, students learn how to really get jobs and job exposure, she said.
“It’s not always because your teacher gives you an internship one day and says here it is,” she said. “We do some of that, but mostly it’s going to these kinds of events, getting your name out there, speaking to adults.”
While some schools host a career day, Miller said Energy Tech wants to go deeper into the industries of energy and engineering. Dozens of companies, agencies and firms from across the city sent representatives to the fair.
What makes Energy Tech students stand out, Miller said, is that they receive industry exposure from day one. Starting in the 9th grade, they take classes devoted to “work-based learning and professionalism.”
“In addition to all their core academic subjects, and the career and technical education within the engineering, they’re also getting what some folks call ‘soft skills,’ or we like to call 21st century or leadership skills,” she said. “How to speak to professionals, how to network, how to have a polished resume, even if you’re just getting out there in the workforce for the first time.”
Starting in the 10th grade, students can begin taking courses at LaGuardia Community College. All of the classes they take are free, and many end up receiving an associate degree in energy technology.
Other students graduate with 15 or more college credits, setting them up for college and getting internships right away. Combine that with the networking and partnerships, and Energy Tech students stay ahead of their competitive field.
“You’re infusing what the workforce needs right here in this school, making sure we’re mapping backwards from the skills that are needed at entry-level jobs to what they’re learning in the classes,” Miller said, “to make sure they’re the most competitive candidates for what the engineering and energy industries need for tomorrow.”