ST. CROIX — Some junior high school students got an early start on learning about careers in technical fields during the annual career fair at St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center on Wednesday.

For more than three hours, the students from public, private and parochial schools got a chance to immerse themselves in an interactive learning experience that organizers said was a “critical” part of what CTEC has to offer.

“It’s critical for us to have this career fair — a lot of people don’t know what great programs we have,” Cenita Heywood, department chair for Student Services, said.

CTEC, she said, is a “feeder school,” with students being bused from the other high schools to the campus or walking over from the nearby St. Croix Educational Complex High School. Wednesday’s fair was opened to students in eighth, ninth and 10th grades.

On Wednesday, students worked their way through classrooms where they saw presentations from instructors as well as current Career and Technical Education Center students.

In a welding class, prospective students wore face shields as they observed welders work on their class projects.

Dozens of students gathered in a large room that houses the agriculture program where they learned about various career paths.

While the career fair served to inform potential students about the school, current students had a chance to sharpen their presentation skills as teachers took a step back.

Eighteen students enrolled in the CTEC Aviation Academy showed career fair attendees how to use a flight simulator to practice taking off and landing on St. Croix. They also learned about aircraft aerodynamics and basic engine and flight safety.

Academy instructor Ira Williams showed confidence in his students and their presentation as he waited outside of his classroom while they took on the role of instructors.

According to Williams, the academy prepares students to become licensed pilots by the time they graduate from the course.

Heywood said it is quite common for CTEC students to begin their careers immediately after finishing one of the 15 CTEC programs.

“One student who graduated from the millwright program already went on to work at Limetree at only 19 years old,” Heywood said. “We always talk about college, but if they don’t get to go to a college they are already prepared for a career right after high school.”

Heywood said that more than 800 students attended the career fair this year. The fair, now in its 20th year, typically sees more than 2,000 students, but the school decided to limit the fair to students in eighth to 10th grades to give them a more “intimate” experience.

— Contact Brandy Brookes at 340-714-9131 or email bbrookes@dailynews.vi.