Get your start in STEM
RMSC’s Career Ladder program
If you’re a young person who’s interested in the science, technology, education, or math (STEM) fields, who is hoping to become a teacher, or who just needs to level up your career readiness, a perfect opportunity could be waiting right around the corner. Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Career Ladder program brings young people from diverse backgrounds in the Rochester area to work in a fun hands-on role at the museum. Participants in this program engage with museum visitors—demonstrating science concepts to crowds through “science encounters,” showing people around, and maintaining exhibits. This growing, changing program could be the perfect way for a student to bolster their resume or college application and gain confidence and life experience at the same time.
Travis Hughes has been overseeing the Career Ladder program since the beginning of the year. “I get to work with a lot of amazing people,” he says. When participants come in to work in the program, their job title is discovery guide. “It’s kind of an entry-level opportunity,” he says. “They’re working in a customer- service role.” Because the program recently secured some additional funds through the Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation Board, however, directors are looking at ways to expand the program. Future opportunities might include working with children’s summer camp groups or scouting groups, and other possibilities may include exhibit design. They are also looking at bringing in partners to help young people explore their options in engineering, medicine, and science and to actively guide interested students toward those careers. Program organizers also hope to help students learn how to apply for college and how to create a resume. “We’ve curated a really awesome team. They all work really well with each other,” Hughes says, and student feedback about the program has been very positive. “They just love working here.”
Mars Scharf, a current Career Ladder participant and a psychology student at University of Rochester, calls this a “great program,” and says it helped with “public speaking and conversational skills.”
“I started out working with the public in a lighter, more limited role,” Scharf says,“then I progressed to floor staff, running things, and interacting with the public.” Scharf enjoys handling the science demonstrations and says that as a psychology major, the experience has been invaluable because it helped the students start to understand peoples’ different learning styles. They have no doubt that the program could help enhance the career readiness of just about any student—it’s a great program for young people interested in “all sorts of jobs.”
Peter Huber, a former Career Ladder student who now teaches science and technology at the Aquinas Institute of Rochester, agrees wholeheartedly. Students planning a career in education will find ample opportunities here to get their feet wet. Huber was seventeen when he started in the program, and he already knew he wanted to teach science, but the job “really helped solidify” his passion for science education, he says. He loved doing science encounters with visitors—he fondly recalls making a battery with a pencil lead and teaching about the process of elimination by using a card trick. “It’s always really awesome to see those kids’ eyes kind of light up,” he says, and to get to explain to them how it works.
Career Ladder applicants should be between sixteen and twenty- two years old. Most applicants are students, but young people in trade schools or exploring their options are also welcome. The program typically works with ten to fifteen students per year. Because of COVID, participation has been light over the past year, but the museum is hoping to bolster the numbers soon.The application can be found online at rmsc.org.