Glenbrook South holds first day-long careers event
Andrew Sykes talks about his job as an actuary at Connects, a career day at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview. | TODD SHIELDS~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:09PM
GLENVIEW — From firefighters to physicists and from actors to actuaries, 185 professionals spent time talking to students at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview about careers in dozens of job fields.
The first GBS Connects, a career exploration day for students, was Dec. 12 when they attended 45-minute sessions, listening to work experiences of many interesting jobholders.
In all, 2,750 students in each of the four grade levels participated.
When students registered for school in November, they selected four career choices they would like learn about, said Lara Cummings GBS assistant principal for Student Services.
“We’re always trying to get students to think about college, but now we’re asking them why go to that college by exposing them to different career opportunities,” Cummings said.
“Some students may have always wanted to be a pharmacists, but don’t know what they do. Students take college courses and find out they’re not interested.”
Andrew Sykes, an actuary and chairman of Health at Work Wellness Actuaries in Chicago, told students that professionals in his vocation used mathematics, statistics, economics and clear English to predict people’s behavior in figuring health insurance premiums and pensions often decades into the future, for instance.
He said the three most common job areas for actuaries were in retirement and pensions, health and life insurance.
“How much money did you need to save each month to live comfortably in retirement? It’s a hard job because so many people love to spend it now, especially young people like you,” Sykes told a dozen amused teenagers.
In figuring life insurance premiums, which differ significantly between men and women because of different mortality rates, Sykes said actuaries also must consider tax rates, government decisions and laws.
“Between the ages of 15 and 25 are when men do stupid stuff under the influence of girls and cars.”
“Women live longer. We figure what causes mortality at different ages for men and women.
“It’s the skill of a good actuary to come as close to being right as possible, but we all end up wrong,” he said, adding some predictions look 100 years ahead.
Sykes, born Johannesburg, South Africa, earned a bachelor’s degree in actuary science and mathematical statistics at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg.
Often, actuaries continue their educations by taking post-graduate examinations offered by associations around the world, such as the Society of Actuaries in the United States and Canada.
“I like my job because the responsibility is quite enormous. That’s why we have so much education over the years. We deal in peoples’ futures in so many ways,” he said.
Student Sam Sulejmani, 17, signed up for the speaker sessions in politics, college athletics, restaurants and law.
His father is in real estate and often works with Chicago alderman.
“Sometimes I go to work with my father and I’ve seen how his work can make a difference in the community,” he said, adding law was his first choice.
Mike Johnson has been a Chicago firefighter for 15 years.
“No two days are same in this job. You make great friends for a lifetime, and they don’t give these jobs away. Not much turnover,” he said.