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From May 12-13, 2022, the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC) held its annual Hiring Fair that engaged approximately 700 students and brought 55 employers and a dozen industry experts from across the Mid-Willamette Valley to host informational sessions, interviews, and vendor tables. Designed to provide opportunities for students to explore their interests and interact with real employers, the event also gave companies a great venue to recruit the young, talented, and ambitious graduates of CTEC programs.

Since CTEC opened in 2015 with just two technical education programs, the Hiring Fair has evolved to not only better serve its growing enrollment and expansion of programs, but also to meet the demand of employers needing to immediately address labor shortages.

“As the center expanded, it became clear that many of our industry partners need employees now,” said CTEC Principal Rhonda Rhodes. “At the same time, we recognized that our students need some important Adulting 101 classes before we send them off into the workforce.”

What started as a small-scale endeavor hosting a few vendors and mock interviews boasted a packed agenda spread over two days this year, including multiple floors of vendor tables, real interviews, and sessions on topics ranging from budgeting and credit to renting an apartment and voting.

With CTEC’s hallways bustling with activity throughout the two days, McLaran Leadership Foundation Director and guest presenter on professional social media Jacob Espinoza noted that “the building was buzzing.”

“The interviews and the adulting sessions offered were the most popular,” said CTEC Business Liaison Chelsea Lynch about what the students gravitated towards. “We also had an alumni panel of past students from CTEC who shared their successes and failures and how CTEC guided them. The most rewarding part was seeing a multitude of ideas unfurl into an event of such magnitude. It was truly an event for both students and industry.”

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Getting the most of its space, the fair utilized the Residential Construction program’s student-built sheds as small private rooms for one-on-one job interviews between employers and students. Lynch estimates that about 45% of student participants land jobs directly from the Hiring Fair, but says that the primary goals of the event are to provide the experience and the opportunity for students, as well as industry partners.

“We want students to feel confident in their ability to present the best version of themselves in any interview, and that industry has restored faith in the capabilities of our young professionals,” Lynch said.

One way CTEC is working to help students with confidence in their presentation is with its Clothing Closet. In preparing for the Hiring Fair, students, who did not have access to professional or properly-fitting clothing, were encouraged to visit the closet earlier in the week, where they were outfitted with blouses, dress shirts, and ties donated by local community members.

Many students took notice and full advantage of the opportunities the fair presented, while not taking them for granted at the same time.

“The most beneficial part for me was all of the industry professional connections I had the honor to make, all in one facility,” said CTEC student Oliver Marche, an aspiring electrician who had the chance to meet with an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) representative at the fair. “I could learn about any career path I had an interest in. That is the most helpful thing anyone could do for a soon-to-be high-school graduate.”

While the fair has certainly progressed over time to provide more tangible experiences and real-world opportunities for students, faculty and staff still feel there are several ways in which the event can continue to improve its offerings, primarily in the ever-evolving technology sector.

“It would be great to get more vendors in areas such as video, game design, 3D animation, sustainable plant science, and auto body involved,” Lynch said. “Our students definitely have a lot of interest in those fields.”

If you or your business is interested in participating in next year’s CTEC Hiring Fair, or if you simply want to learn more, contact us at info@salemchamber.org.

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