Oakland Next celebrates Oakland County’s future leaders and change-makers

A group of Oakland County high school students is being asked the question that may define their future: “Are you Oakland’s Next ______?”
Students at Lake Orion High School are taking part in a unique career development exercise. At 6:30 p.m. March 15 at their school, they will hear a 90-minute presentation from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who live or work in Oakland County. The students will learn about tangible opportunities and the pathways to find careers they didn’t know existed making the things they never imagined possible earning a salary that will get their attention.
The event is free and open to the public.
“We have found out if you go to a typical high school right now the counselors are really good and well-intentioned; they just don’t have the tools to give really specific, cutting-edge advice on careers,” says Matthew Gibb, deputy Oakland County executive.
Oakland NEXT: A Future You Didn’t Know Existed, is a pilot program designed to be replicated in other high schools in Oakland County. It features a series of speakers whose jobs allow them to do whatever they do virtually anywhere in the world and they’ve found their success – by choice – in Oakland County. It’s not a high-pressure sales pitch but rather a chance for students to hear real-life experiences that can help them make informed decisions about careers that are actually in-demand and available in the marketplace.
“Last year there were 9,600 degrees awarded in humanities-based subjects, but less than 200 job postings for those degrees,” Gibb says. “This seems to be happening over many traditional academic disciplines. At the same time, there are more than 17,000 open job postings for multifaceted programs in mechanical, systems and electrical engineering, yet fewer than 1,200 students graduating with such degrees. Part of Oakland Next is to get this data out, help young people learn of the career paths ahead of them, and show that working in a STEM career doesn’t mean they’ll sit in an office all day.”
The pilot aims to share stories of entrepreneurial, professional and philanthropic success as well as promoting Oakland County as a place of unlimited opportunity. The event will feature short TEDx-type talks. Megan Mahoney, a talented engineer who grew up in Flint and now travels the world in her work for BASF, will share her story as will Hajj Flemings, a speaker, author and the founder of Brand Camps University, who speaks globally on the importance of finding your brand.
Nicholas Kristock followed his dream of playing Division I soccer only to find his passion was helping children. He founded Fleece and Thank You, a nonprofit organization that make blankets for children.
“I spent several years taking classes for a career I didn’t want or really know about, when my passion was right in front of me,” says Kristock.
To underscore his point, several Lake Orion students pulled out their recent career tests results. One student, who wants to be an engineer and will attend college on nearly a full scholarship, was told he should be a fashion model – based on his career test results. Another student, holding a grade point nearing 4.2, and who plans on going into intellectual property law, was told she should be a furniture refinisher.
“It’s an outdated way of thinking,” Gibb says. “There’s a mismatch because industries evolve so quickly. Oakland Next wants to get that data squarely in the hands of these students and these educators.”
Students who attend the program and register will be entered in a drawing to win up to $500 – courtesy of HOUR Media and Quality Metal Craft.

For more information about the Oakland Next initiative and to stay informed on future events, check out OaklandNext.com and #OaklandNext.