Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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September 14, 2012

Area students learn first hand about jobs at Marathon refinery

CATLETTSBURG — For the next two weeks, local middle schoolers have the chance to experience a day in the life of a Marathon refinery worker at the plant’s sixth annual career fair.

Eighth-graders from around the Tri-State began visiting Catlettsburg Refining’s facility to learn about the different jobs there and, most importantly, to introduce them to possible career paths in the fields of math and science, said Nicci Triche, who coordinated the fair.

“By high school, the kids already have an idea of what they want to do and are working toward those plans, but 8th graders aren’t, so it seems like a good time to talk to them,” she said.

The refinery’s diversity team began hosting the career fair in 2007, Triche said. That year about 1,500 students attended, but this year about 3,000 students will see what the refinery has to offer. About 250 refinery employees have volunteered to help out and take turns working at the 18 booths, each teaching about a different job at the refinery. For example, one booth teaches students about a career in fire and rescue services and another teaches about information technology.

A few home-schooled students and students from a total of 24 schools will come to the fair, to which two days has been added since last year to accommodate the schools. This year, the booths are more interactive, Triche said, to give the students a more hands-on experience.

Reaching out to students through the fair and seeing how they respond is a rewarding experience, Triche said.

“The best part is when they come in, you ask the kids what they want to do when they grow up, and they’ll have all kinds of different answers. Then when they leave they might say they want to be an accountant just because they visited the accounting booth,” she said.

A new booth this year is the refinery’s diversity team booth, where the focus is on bullying — students learn how to deal with bullies and where they can go online to get more help. Byron Shropshire, the fair’s co-facilitator and a unit console control operator at the refinery, said he’s enjoyed seeing how students have responded to that information.

“As the kids were leaving yesterday, a worker stopped a girl and asked her if she’d learned anything. ... She said she loved the diversity booth. She said she gets bullied every day, so it was helpful. She said she’d go to the website,” Shropshire said.

Sian Pemberton, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at East Carter Middle School, said she likes math and science, and coming to the career fair made her think more about what kind of career path she will choose.

Teachers from the school said the career fair is an interesting and structured field trip that they look forward to every year.

“They (students) come in not knowing what to expect, but they leave with a positive attitude,” said Angel Elliott, a language arts teacher at the school.

The career fair will continue at the refinery through Sept. 25. Next year, the fair may last for three weeks if more schools decide to attend, Triche said.

“We’ve got a great response, and we plan on doing this for a long time,” Shropshire said.

SHANNON MILLER can be reached at smiller@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2657.

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