Evansville High School hosts junior career fair for students

From left, staff from Affliated Engineers, Inc., a nationwide company that has a regional office in Madison, talks with an Evansville High School student during the junior career fair held Wednesday. The fair represented all 16 core areas of the workforce, said Linda Gard, the school district’s school to career coordinator.

When Evansville School District school to career coordinator Linda Gard talks with students about life beyond high school, she no longer asks them what they want to be when they grow up.

Instead, Gard asks what they’re good at, or what they like to do outside of school, and from there, she looks to see how a student’s passions can align with a specific career cluster. That was the concept behind the Evansville High School’s junior career fair Wednesday, April 13.

Rather than showcasing specific jobs, Gard said, the fair instead invited Evansville area and regional professionals to fill the high school commons with booths to speak about their career paths.

“(It’s) just really their journey of what they’re doing today and how they got there,” she said. “And it’s just really to communicate to the kids that you know, you may think you’re going to do something after high school and 30 years later, you may completely take a different path, and kids need to hear that that’s OK.”

Gard said each workplace cluster, which included areas such as science and technology, government and law enforcement and justice, had at least one person in attendance to talk to students about their career path, and most sectors had four representatives.

The career fair isn’t new, Gard said, but this is the first time the high school has hosted it since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In prior years, students have done post-graduation career planning and exploration on computer software the district has access to, which limits their ability to develop other soft skills such as networking that employers are looking for when hiring.

“Not only are we getting kids to do career exploration today, we’re also giving them we’re giving them an opportunity to put some of those soft skills in place as far as how to communicate how to start a conversation, how to dress, how to stay engaged … which are all super important for kids to be learning as students,” she said.

To bring in companies, Gard worked with the Evansville Chamber of Commerce as a starting point, and then drove around the area to talk to businesses and asked other high school staff for recommendations.

The buy-in from the Evansville community was significant, Gard added, saying the largest sign of success for her was that people were willing to come in and talk with students about their career paths. That collaboration between the high school and community businesses is vital, she said, because the district doesn’t have the capacity to give students a window into every career option on its own.

“My biggest success is just the excitement and the willingness to take two, three hours out of their day on a Wednesday morning and come and want to connect with our high school students,” she said. “That’s why we need to bring (in) our community and to help us make these kids career and life ready after high school.”

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