ADRIAN — The second annual Career Connections countywide job fair more than doubled the participation numbers of last year’s event, career fair organizers said.
The job fair allowed more than 40 employers to meet with more than 275 local adults, college students and high school juniors and seniors March 22 at the Siena Heights University fieldhouse in Adrian.
Career Connections was developed in 2022 to connect high school seniors who were not planning to follow a traditional career path to different employment options available in the region. It also provides opportunities to join the workforce after high school, enroll in apprenticeships and seek tuition reimbursement. The job fair is being held by the Align Center for Workforce Development, which is part of Lenawee Now, the economic development agency for Lenawee County.
Sponsors of this year’s job fair included Midwest Energy and Communications, Michigan Works Southeast, Siena Heights, the Lenawee Intermediate School District, Anderson Development Co., Clift Buick GMC, Evonik-Silbond, Walmart and MC Bartending.
“It takes a tremendous amount of work to put an event like this together, so to see students, career seekers and employers turn out in the numbers they did was super energizing,” Ashley Vandenbusche, manager of the Michigan Works Southeast service center in Adrian , said in a news release.
Ben Negron, store manager of the Adrian Meijer, said he met several “high value” applicants and possibly some new employees.
“I was also very impressed with the organizational effort by the Align team to create a welcoming space for all,” he said in the release. “The one thing that stood out about the Align team was that they were constantly visible and helped the various vendors throughout the event.”
Garry Clift, owner of Clift Buick GMC, was able to share both his for-profit and non-profit passions by talking to job seekers about employment with the dealership and volunteer opportunities with the animal rescue he supports, Ahimsa Safe Haven in Onsted. Clift called the event “outstanding” and said it was a “great investment in the community.”
Sheila Blair, manager of the Align Center for Workforce Development, said high schoolers had the opportunity to not only visit with employers for maybe the first time in their lives, but they were also able to tour the Siena Heights University campus and attend mini seminars onsite .
High school teachers and counselors who attended the event with their students were impressed with the offerings for high schoolers, the release said.
“We had seminars for them (students) to learn about what apprenticeships, scholarships and other supports were available for their interests and also which employers offer tuition reimbursement,” Blair said in the release. “We even talked to them about the importance of cleaning up their social media posts since employers are now looking at social media before hiring candidates.”
Adrian High School math/business teacher Thomas Allor Jr. said his students who attended the career fair gained much from the experience.
“Many of the kids really felt that the vendors explained the jobs well,” he said. “Aligning provided them with the opportunity to meet and greet, now it is (the student’s) turn to actually follow through and apply for the job.”
Blair said the Align Center is going to make Career Connections an annual event, more than likely being held in March each year. The 2022 career fair was hosted at Adrian College in late March. The timeframe, she explained in the release, provides high school seniors with the chance to have a job plan following graduation. However, what is available and offered at the communitywide job fair is for more than just high school students. It is also a positive impact for the entire community, he said.
“We all want to live in a community which fosters and sustains a strong, diverse economy,” Vandenbusche said. “Providing career seekers and employers with forums like Career Connections to engage with one another is an essential part of ensuring Lenawee County continues to be a place where individuals and businesses alike can live, work and prosper.”
Patrick Farver, executive director for Lenawee Now and the Align Center for Workforce Development, said “great collaboration” brought last week’s event together.
“All the sponsors helped support and promote this event to other businesses, students and people looking for a job,” Farver said in the release. “Coming together to support our businesses and job seekers is what makes this a special event.”
Lenawee, Jackson County high school students compete in entrepreneurship challenge
On March 18, the final part of the CEO Challenge: Lauch took place at the Jackson Area Career Center with 13 teams from Lenawee and Jackson County high schools giving a business pitch in front of a panel of judges.
After the initial elimination rounds, the final three teams went against each other to compete for the grand prize of $1,000. Tthe winning teams were from Jackson High School, first place; Lumen Christi High School, second place; and Northwest High School, third place. The event was sponsored by Lenawee Now and administered by Junior Achievement.
Launch is the final stage of the CEO Challenge, a three-part series designed to create enthusiasm among high schoolers around entrepreneurship and teach them the necessary skills for the endeavor. Starting in January, Lenawee County schools took part in the first phase, Spark. At this event, students heard from a panel of local entrepreneurs and participated in a structured activity where they created a business concept to pitch in a 2-minute infomercial.
Following that experience, students returned to their schools and assembled teams for Ignite, the second part of the CEO Challenge. Over the course of six weeks, students developed a product or service and a strategy for turning it into a viable business. Participants learned from both teachers and independently from interactive modules supplied by Junior Achievement.
Participants in the Launch challenge were also able to win awards for the most innovative idea or best presentation, the release said.