Maybe you remember “career fair” day back when you were in high school. Businesses and colleges came to the gym, set up tables and handed out information. Students made the rounds with a checklist and were mostly just happy to be out of class for a while.
At the LaPorte County Career and Technical Education Center, we have taken the career fair concept to a new level.
On Feb. 11, the LaPorte County Career and Technical Education program held its annual Future Careers Expo at the A.K. Smith Center in Michigan City. But this expo actually began weeks in advance. Teachers assigned projects centered on preparing resumes and work portfolios. Community volunteers Kristen Patterson and Suzy Vance worked hands-on with students on resume writing in the computer labs.
Rene Ray, of R Squared Strategies, and Tony Sindone, economics lecturer at Purdue University Northwest, also visited A.K. Smith, leading a workshop about interview techniques, including appropriate handshakes and the importance of having a 30-second “sales speech” ready to impress.
Students also were entertained with a “dressed for success” fashion show. In addition, student students began to prepare for mock interviews with “real” employers, which would take place at the Career Expo.
At the Expo, more than 115 adults interacted with students from six high schools. Students moved among three rotations: an exhibit of apprenticeships, college, military and direct work-entry options, a session on social media and job hunting facilitated by the local WorkOne staff and mock interviews involving more than 70 business professionals.
“This is a great thing for students,” said Sarah Brown, of Edward Jones. “It’s important to critique resumes and give feedback on interview skills. I can get 80 to 100 applicants when I post a job. I liked being able to explain that to students so they can picture what it looks like from the interviewer’s point of view.”
“I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the youth in this program,” said Garry England, of KTR Corp. “With all the bad we hear about, it’s so nice to see young people with goals.”
Thanks to the Future Careers Expo, students involved with LaPorte County Career and Technical Education feel prepared, confident and enthusiastic about their career paths.
And after speaking with our students, the adults were so impressed they asked to return to interview for real positions. On May 6, A.K. Smith hosted an employment fair in which many of the “mock” interviewers returned to interview students for real jobs in Northwest Indiana.