Sometimes, the best learning happens outside the classroom.
For NPPD careers outreach specialist Kim Liebig, that’s the idea behind a student outreach day hosted at the Norfolk Operations Center of the Nebraska Public Power District. Liebig coordinated the event, now in its third year, and said it’s an extension of school outreach involving classroom presentations and career fair booths.
“We wanted to take it a step further and thought we’re already going into classrooms, now let’s bring them to us so they can see exactly what it is that we’re doing,” she said. “They’ll see it, they’ll hear it and we have a lot of hands-on activities, making it interactive so the kids can get a feel for what people do in different jobs around here.”
More than 30 high schoolers got to experience firsthand the different facets of NPPD on Wednesday in two hourlong sessions, one at 9:30 a.m. and one at 1 p.m. The student groups — juniors and seniors from Norfolk High School, Battle Creek High School and Norfolk Catholic High School — learned many different things through hands-on demonstrations and employee presentations.
Activities ranged from a line technician safety demonstration, virtual reality simulators depicting wind turbines and the Cooper Nuclear Station, land management presentations and call center representative power outage simulations.
One of the booths featured an environment-themed board game based on Life, complete with Lego figurines. AJ Barajas, a junior at Norfolk Catholic, said students had to choose between a compliant or riskier noncompliant route in response to various scenarios.
“It pretty much taught you about doing the right thing, it might take longer but in the end it’ll be better for everything,” he said. “I tried to take a risk that didn’t come out very well.”
Barajas laughed with his classmates over landing in the game’s jail after making a noncompliant decision. Group member Wyatt Ash, a junior, won by making mostly compliant choices.
Barajas said the event has taught him aspects he didn’t know about the environment, natural resources and NPPD. Barajas said he also was looking forward to learning more about job opportunities.
“I’m kind of interested even in being a lineman, I think that’d be pretty neat so I came out here to see what everything’s about,” he said.
More than 25 NPPD employees attended the event to share their expertise with students, including Marie LaFleur, a substation support specialist in Norfolk who participated in the event as a guide.
“This morning we went through everything, we’re going through different opportunities at the power plant,” she said. “We have different locations throughout the state … you can literally work anywhere in Nebraska if you stay with NPPD.”
Liebig said the event intended to show students that people of different backgrounds, interests and education levels could all be a part of NPPD.
“It’s a great day for the kids to come in and get to see the different career opportunities in the district within our company,” she said. “… We have a lot of opportunities, a wide range from two-year degrees to four-year degrees. Business, technical trade areas, engineering, we’ve kind of got it all.”