Kern County Career & STEM Expo: Inspiring Tomorrow’s Workforce

Friday April 26, 2024

housands of local students got a glimpse into their possible futures Friday at the Kern County Career & STEM Expo hosted by the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC).

CTEC, the Kern High School District (KHSD), the Kern Economic Development Foundation (KEDF), and various community partners teamed up for the expo, which aims to foster career and STEM awareness among over 3,400 students across Kern County who visited the expo. The event caters to middle and high school students from various districts, providing them first hand exposure to different career paths available in the community.

Thousands of students participated in the Kern County Career & STEM Expo on Friday, April 26. Check out the highlights in our video.

Brian Miller, principal of Kern High’s Regional Occupational Programs, said more than 150 businesses and local educational organizations engaged with students and shared insights into their respective careers.

“It’s powerful to see the number of employers that come to this event,” Miller said. “They’re donating their time to talk to kids about their careers. It really does make a difference when they get engaged and talk to kids like that.”

Notable attractions include a science magic show, heavy equipment displays, and outdoor demonstrations featuring robotics, drones, and police canine units.

“They get excited when they come in. Their eyes light up. They see a fire truck, and then they get to talk to the firefighter, or they see the big crane, and they get to talk to the crane operator,” Miller said.

As students interact with industry professionals and explore diverse career pathways, they gain invaluable insights that will shape their academic and professional journeys.

Richard Chapman is the Executive Director of KEDF. He says the foundation is a cornerstone of the community, and it’s an honor to partner with the schools and local agencies.

“It’s all about talent retention and linking students with employers for future opportunities,” he said.

Chapman says he’s especially proud to see Kern County Women in STEM represented with a booth at the expo. He emphasizes the importance of kids being able to visualize themselves in any career path they want.

“So many of the kids today are going to see women engineers, women scientists, and they say, oh, I can do this when I grow up,” he said.

Richard Chapman with two Boston Dynamics robot dogs.

Jeannie Bertolaccini with Kern County Women in STEM says there are many more opportunities available now for girls, and she’s proud to introduce them to careers they haven’t considered before.

“There’s so much out here, and they’re being exposed to things that they’ve maybe never seen,” she said. “They’re so thirsty for information, so we’ve had a really great time connecting with these girls.”

Kern County Women in STEM gets together monthly to find different ways to mentor and support young girls in pursuing a career in STEM fields such as architecture or geology.

“It’s really just trying to make connections,” she said. “These girls are just really excited to hear about it.”

Meanwhile, Illusionist Jason Latimer did a demonstration where he performed various magic tricks and encouraged the audience to ask questions and figure out how it all worked. He said his love of illusions and science started when he saw his first magic show at age nine.

“How does the magician have different rules than the rest of us? How is that possible?,” he asked. “So I spent my entire life studying applied science. Whatever the answer is, there must be a solution.”

Latimer and his team also set up an Impossible Science Festival at CTEC where students could interact with the various illusions performed in magic shows and discover the scientific explanations behind those illusions.

Aydrhianna Jimenez, a sophomore at East Bakersfield High School, said the Impossible Science Festival was her favorite part of the expo because she could experiment hands-on with the different displays. If she figured out how something worked, she won a prize. 

Jimenez said that after today, she is a lot more interested in joining a STEM class or club and maybe working with robotics in the future. She’s not the only one. Several other students expressed interest in learning about robotics, drones, and STEM projects.

“I was going toward a music career, but now it’s kind of changed,” said Downtown Elementary seventh grader Isacc Santoyo. “I’m just seeing all these other career options. I’m thinking of maybe taking one of those.”

Santoyo said his interest in robotics started when ‘Spot’ the Boston Dynamics robot dog came to his school for a demonstration.

“It was just really interesting,” he said. “It’s crazy to think that that’s all coded, that someone made that work.”


By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.