First hand look of the future: Students gather to SMEC for Career Fair

Published 5:33 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Within a trailer from the Minnesota State Agriculture Centers for Excellence, Kingsland student Jacob Warren was behind the wheel of a simulated combine.

Elsewhere at the Southern Minnesota Education Consortium (SMEC)’s third annual Career Fair, Glenville-Emmons High School students  Madisyn Doyle, Macie Mauer and Chelsea Anderson were trying their hands at a surgical simulator at a booth for Mayo Clinic’s Surgical Services.

In all, students from eight schools were on hand Wednesday morning to see what opportunities businesses and industries from around the area have to offer.

Email newsletter signup

“Because of the hands-on nature of what we’re doing here, this is more of a career exploration event, rather than your typical job fair where the students meet with employers to get a job,” explained facilitator and SMEC English teacher Julie Mitchell. “This is more of a look at what we have in our area and then connecting employers with that.”

Around the grounds of the school and in the parking lot, over 28 vendors were involved in the fair, ranging from agriculture, healthcare, construction and everything in between.

The reason for this selection of industries was because it fits well, not only with the area, but the hands-on nature of the students.

“Because when you look at the high demand jobs, high paying jobs in our region, it typically is coming from manufacturing and healthcare, so those are two things we try to get as much as possible,” Mitchell said. “Our students tend to be in the rural area and are more inclined to do hands-on type of jobs.”

SMEC Executive Director Dan Armagost was a proponent of the event  from the first because it fits the core of the school itself.

He said to host the event just makes sense, not only for the students who go to SMEC, but the schools from which those students come from.

“When we look at it, we’re here to serve our member districts,” Armagost said. “This is something we’ve done for a couple years now. This is a great opportunity to bring the students of the schools together and our businesses together to help take care of some of the work shortages and show students what’s out there as far as a career.”

“It’s another example of small schools working together to do big things,” he added.

Armagost also referred to SMEC’s mode of education in that it centers on alternative modes of education rather than traditional.

Many of those jobs represented Wednesday fit that mode.

“A lot of students coming out here,  typically,  the stand and deliver model didn’t work,” he said. “We have a lot of hands-on kids and they have an opportunity to see how they apply what they are learning here to a business.”

The feedback has overwhelmingly been positive from students.

“Overall we are getting very positive feedback,” Armagost said. “We do have a lot of students walking away from this with interviews and potential jobs for the upcoming year. It’s been very beneficial.”

While the businesses get an idea of possible additions to the workforce, organizers hope the students also come away from the Career Fair with an experience that leads to future successes.

For Mitchell, that hope is two-fold.

“The first thing I want them to come away with is that there are outstanding jobs that are right here around them and that they would be interested in and pay them well,” she said. “Secondly, learning how to network with people and employers so when it comes time for job search they are not sitting there wondering what to do.”