More than 2,000 area high school students participated in the sixth annual Southwest Minnesota Career Expo Tuesday at Southwest Minnesota State University and Wednesday at Minnesota West Community & Technical College, Worthington campus.
Businesses set up interactive booths at the Worthington Area YMCA based on job categories, including agriculture, natural resources, arts, communications, engineering, technology, health sciences, human services and business administration.
There were about 700 students at the Worthington event, said Amber Luinenburg, the marketing coordinator for Minnesota West.
“The purpose is to educate them about careers and educational opportunities in southwest Minnesota,” Luinenburg said. “Our goal is for students to stay in the area because we see the value in the job market here.”
The Minnesota West booth had an assortment of career costumes for students to try on and get their picture taken. Barb Staples, who works in the college registration department, said the goal is to promote the college’s Facebook page, so the pictures will get posted there.
Katie Angelo, a sophomore at Hills-Beaver Creek High School, said she enjoyed trying on the costumes — and getting out of class.
I don’t have to be at school, so I’m glad I came,” Angelo said laughing.
“I think it’s a good way to start thinking about (college), and we want to get them excited to come,” Staples said, adding students can also learn about non-traditional careers.
Registered dietician Greta Farley helped run the Hy-Vee booth, talking to students about her job and the steps it took to become a dietician. It’s important that students understand their options, Farley said.
“I know as a high school student I had never heard of a dietician,” Farley said. “I had no idea that was an option.”
Angie Peralta, a JBS employment manager, said she attended the expo to explain the variety of career paths available with her company, which has about 2,200 employees at its Worthington plant.
“It’s not just production jobs, but also maintenance, electricians, industrial controls, accounting and sales,” Peralta said. “It’s been a good response and an eye opener for students.”
Along with the exhibit, campus tours were offered, and a career game show took place in the Minnesota West Theater.
The tour provided a complete picture of the campus, and allowed students to learn about different subjects offered, Luinenburg said.
The game show provided information about various careers, as well as job salaries and education opportunities in the area.
Luinenburg said the expo took about a year to plan, and was free for businesses and schools. A handful of partners were involved, with the Southwest Minnesota Workforce Council being the main sponsor.
The expo was mainly geared toward high school sophomores and some juniors.
“We think that’s the prime age for starting to think about career choices,” Luinenburg said. “We’ve talked about having seniors, but we think by that time they know what they’re going to do.”
She said the event gets bigger every year.
“(Some companies) said they are starving for employees right now, so that’s really good to hear,” Luinenburg said.
More information on the expo may be found online at www.swsc.org/page/274.
By:Kayla Strayer, Worthington Daily Globe