New Berlin - Sometimes people train for careers only to find that the available jobs aren't what they thought they would be or that jobs are far from home.
In part, that's why the New Berlin School District began offering career and job fairs, giving its students access to information that can help them with their career decisions. But the job fairs also gives something to potential employers: a chance to build a local workforce.
In a recent career and job fair at New Berlin West High School fieldhouse, business leaders from 60 companies and service agencies described what their occupations are like on a daily basis, career options in their fields and education students need to land those jobs.
About 800 students took part in the fair, the second presented by the school district, the city of New Berlin and area businesses to showcase local businesses and cultivate interest among students and the community for a future job force.
Aside from the obvious benefits of guiding students, the fair had larger implications for area economic development. It was also meant to benefit businesses by helping provide a future workforce for local companies, said Superintendent Joe Garza.
It did that by letting students know about jobs and careers available locally, especially in fields that have been identified as having trouble filling positions, such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, accounting and finance and health care, Garza said.
That effort is aligned with a statewide objective.
"A goal at the state level is to transform education to support workforce and economic development," Garza said.
The schools' effort to inform students about technology careers found strong support from Dan D'Amore, senior vice president of Top Floor Technologies, a local high-tech company that helps businesses design their websites so that they come up when potential customers use Google.
"I don't know if there will be enough skilled young people in the future," D'Amore acknowledged.
At least, the New Berlin Career and Job Fair tries to help by establishing a relationship between the students and the businesses, D'Amore said. He praised the New Berlin schools for doing the groundwork he needs to get employees.
"The schools are training them in the right direction, they are getting the foundation they need," D'Amore said.
At another booth was Robb Krahn, vice president of Donovan & Jorgenson, a New Berlin heating, ventilation and air-conditioning firm that shares some of the same concerns as high-tech companies.
"We have difficulty finding enough young people to work in our industry," Krahn said.
In his view, the fair has helped because he was able to describe HVAC jobs and careers and what preparation they need to enter the field.
Krahn said the students seemed receptive, and he left with four applications from students looking for jobs after graduation. He is in the process of interviewing the students now for the two full-time positions at his company.
If there is one thing he wished the New Berlin schools would do to help businesses like his it's to bring back shop classes - like woodworking, metals and small engines - that lead to entering more hands-on occupations, Krahn said.
"For kids not college-bound, it gives an avenue for a career," he said.
Job one: getting hired
No matter what the career choice, the hurdle is still to land the job, and that's one of the things Angela Kemast, Waukesha branch Project Ability Leader with Manpower, tried to help students address.
Kemast told students how to find their "personal branding," giving insights and suggestions for resumés as well as tips on how to come across well in job interviews.
Many of the students were so well-prepared and professional "sometimes I forgot I was talking to a 16-year-old," she said.
But the opportunity to learn even more wasn't lost on students such as Jessa Hahn, a junior at Eisenhower Middle/High School who wants to be a nurse. Hahn said her interest is in the psychology area, but was astonished to learn at the fair of all the other kinds of nursing.
While she wants to stick with psychology, what she learned at the fair about how to make her dream come true was invaluable - more detailed than the basic information she has found online. One job fair representative was particularly helpful, she said.
"He gave me a lot of information on career options, different levels … and what's required," Hahn said.
What took place for Hahn and hundreds of other students in those few hours when schools and the working world became one was described by one presenter as precious.
"The kids are our future," D'Amore said. "A partnership between the schools and business is truly critical."
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