The Fayette County Career and Technical Institute (CTI) is helping students get a jump on their careers before they even hit their teens.

While the vocational school in Georges Township teaches trades to more than 600 high school students students during the school year, for a few days each summer the school aims a little younger.

The CTI’s career exploration camp was held this month for students entering sixth and seventh grades to engage with programs offered at the school and to explore careers that accompany those programs.

The camp offers three full days of hands-on activities through which students get an overview of subject areas of their choosing. Students selected six programs to explore, including culinary arts, theatrical makeup, 3-D design, sporting conditioning and medicine, anatomy and retro game, among others.

Nancy Rossell, camp coordinator as well as cooperative education coordinator at the CTI, said students are encouraged to follow their interests when selecting sessions to attend during the camp.

Programs offered over the three days correspond with high school programs taught at the CTI, said Rossell. The CTI offers 15 vocational programs in its curriculum.

In its 11th year, the summer camp continues to grow in interest, Rossell said.

“We’ve have had to add programs due to demand,” she said. “The demand is there year after year.”

The camp offered 12 unique learning and career exploration opportunities to students this year. It was attended by 200 students from the CTI’s four feeder districts of Albert Gallatin, Brownsville, Laurel Highlands and Uniontown.

Rossell said the school’s efforts to recruit students through its summer camp have historically paid off. The CTI has documented instances where students who have attended the camp in middle school have gone on to enroll at the vocational school in high school.

“Our data has proven that we have gained students who have come to the school and chosen our programs after attending our summer camp,” said Rossell.

On a larger scale, the purpose of the camp — and the CTI as a whole — is to spark an interest in particular careers and to prepare students to enter the local workforce with the necessary skills, serving the needs of local businesses by producing employable workers to fill positions currently available in Fayette County, Rossell said. Students attending the camp can explore careers that are available locally and can provide a sustainable wage, said added.

“This is our future workforce right here,” Rossell said of the campers. “We need to nurture them while they’re young because they are more likely to learn and develop their skills from a young age.”

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