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Ask high school students about which careers they are interested in, and construction materials testing is unlikely to be a top choice.

Rather than simply hope students stumble across the field, CME Associates is bringing it to the classroom. The materials testing company, which has a Buffalo branch near the General Motors engine plant, is working with the nearby Charter School for Applied Technologies (CSAT) on a curriculum designed to prepare students for entry-level positions.

"It's a good foundation for the students to get a job right out of school," said Lisa Uschold, CME's branch manager.

Plans call for the curriculum to be offered at the charter school starting in fall 2005, said Karen Merkel-Libertore, the business-school liaison at CSAT, which is at 2303 Kenmore Ave. Details of how it will be fit into the school's overall course offerings are still being worked out.

CME hopes the program will be rolled out to other schools across the state, after it is established locally, said Damon Adams, the company's executive assistant for marketing and human resources.

Eight ninth-grade students from CSAT toured CME's operations on Monday, among the dozens of CSAT students who are visiting this year. The students picked up hands-on lessons in how to test concrete, to ensure it meets standards on a job site.

The planned curriculum reflects the charter school's emphasis on connecting classroom lessons with workplace opportunities, Merkel-Libertore said. "It's all things that are available in this region."

CME, in turn, hopes to expose students to a career that they might not otherwise consider.

"They looked at us, their neighbor down the street, as a potential work force for them," Merkel-Libertore said. "They can come in as a technician and work their way up to an engineer."

One of the students on the tour, Asia Benefield, stepped up to try each of the materials-testing steps that were demonstrated.

Afterward, Benefield said while she wasn't sure about construction materials testing as a career just yet, the tour did make her curious about it.

"I think it was fun," she said. "I like trying new things."

Throughout the tour, Adams and other CME employees emphasized the opportunities and good pay available to students who enter the field.

A professional engineer told them about the shortage of people entering engineering across the country.

The charter school has established ties with other groups and companies, to expose students to a range of career options.

Tops Markets in September presented a weeklong food-safety supplementary curriculum to fifth graders that included a store tour to talk about different jobs.

The Construction Exchange of Buffalo and Western New York, which consists of leaders of construction companies, wants to work with eighth graders on a project that would expose them to all facets of the business.

And the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association is talking to students about the automotive industry.

Computer Education Services Corp. is helping students create a Web site for the school, and Capital Management Services, a collections firm, will host a tour of its own.


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