At the end of her junior year of high school, Maiya Thompson had no idea what she was going to do after she graduated.

In fact, Thompson was even contemplating not furthering her education at all. Then she went to an event that literally changed her life.

Known as the Career Institute, the event was hosted by an organization known as Technology and Trades on the Prairie.

The group of local leaders established the entity to promote the economic vitality of careers in the technology and trades industries in southwest Minnesota.

The Career Institute, which was held this past summer for the first time, provided an opportunity for students, like Thompson, to get hands-on experience in a variety of fields as a way to help those students find their areas of interest as they consider their future.

Thompson attended the two-day program held in Morgan last year and said she experienced everything from the medical field to horticulture, but it was in one area that the Redwood Valley High School student found her future career – welding. 

“There is a high demand for welders right now,” explained Thompson, adding she learned about the job availability as well as the fact that those who are in the field make a pretty good living.

While those facts piqued Thompson’s interest, the fact that she had the chance to actually try out some welding is what convinced her. Thompson said she learned that she was pretty good at it.

“I like to work with my hands,” said Thompson, adding welding gives her that opportunity.

In addition, she sees it as a way for her to create things.

“I like knowing that I can work and watch something coming out of nothing,” she said.

Thompson, who will graduate May 20 from RVHS, is going to be attending the Jackson campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College where she will pursue her certification as a welder.

She said the program takes one year to finish.

Thompson also already knows there will be jobs waiting for her. She also was a recipient of a $500 Technology and Trades on the Prairie Scholarship and has also been awarded scholarship funding through the school to make her plan to enter the world of welding a reality.

Thompson admitted none of this likely would have happened if she had not attended the 2017 Career Institute, and so she encouraged anyone who is thinking about it to attend this year’s Career Institute. The 2018 Career Institute is being held July 17-18 in Morgan.

The event runs from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day, and those who want to participate must attend both days.

Students in Grades 7-12 are eligible. There is no charge to attend the event, and those who pre-register may be eligible to receive a $100 stipend just for being in attendance for the entire two-day event.

Lunch is also provided. There are still openings for this year’s Career Institute, but there is a limit of 70 students who will be selected to attend.

To learn more about the Career Institute and to register, visit www.prairiecareers.com.