Career fair opens eyes, mindsStudents in grades 9-12 attended a career-exploration fair from 8-11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the River Falls High School.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Students in grades 9-12 attended a career-exploration fair from 8-11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the River Falls High School.
Dozens of people from the community, representing a wide variety of professions, participated by sharing what they know with the young people.
The School District’s Transition Coordinator Michelle Uetz, also a teacher, was one of many who began organizing the event in October.
She said planning and research for the fair started well before that, with several educators from River Falls attending a career fair in Ellsworth.
Uetz said there, they made many contacts and gained ideas about who to bring in as specialists for River Falls.
The three-hour fair in River Falls included three main aspects: A keynote speaker, several breakout-session panels and exhibit booths.
Uetz said Dr. Pamela Holsinger-Fuechs, director of enrollment at UW-Stout, talked about careers in the future for her keynote address.
The fair included many panel discussions on different areas of specialty. Uetz said they picked the areas of profession for the breakout panels based on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s “career clusters.”
Those include agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, audio/video technology, and communication; business management and administration; education and training; finance; government and public administration; health science; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; law, public safety, corrections and security; manufacturing; marketing; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and transportation, distribution and logistics.
Panelists gathered in small groups of 2-5 people and met with students to discuss profession-related issues and answer questions.
Uetz said they didn’t give a formal presentation but came prepared to answer questions about their education, experience, profession, how they got started, what they would do differently now, a typical work day, best and worst parts of the job, emerging trends, skills and abilities, surprises about the work, salary range and what qualities companies seek in their employees.
Curious students could also wander through an exhibit area to interact with local individuals from different professions.
For example, the fire and ambulance departments had a booth, as did the military, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Chippewa Valley Technical College and others.
Uetz said, “They all had different booths for students to move around and ask questions.”
She said many professional groups who set up a booth also generously donated door prizes and held drawings for things like sweatshirts, T-shirts, backpacks, mugs, gift baskets and other goodies. Exhibitors collectively gave away about 50 different door prizes.
“The people and the panelists had a lot of good things to say about our students,” said Uetz.
She credits a big group of organizers for pulling together the career-exploration fair, including school district employees Stacey Matter, Jessica Luther, Sheri Macbeth, Molly Scanlon and student Claire Helling.
Uetz said feedback indicates that students found the experience valuable and participants deemed it successful. She says the district plans to hold a similar event again but probably not every year.
Organizers are working to decide how often the career-exploration fair should be held. It will probably be every two, three or four years.
Uetz explained how the idea for such an event arose: “It’s one of the things in the (school district’s) strategic plan -- to include and improve career education.”
She said the purpose of the fair was to expose students to the wide variety of careers available to them, as well as to help them make good educational decisions and pursue the career that most interests them.