Franklin County Tech’s Annual Career Expo Has Its Most Successful Year
TURNERS FALLS, MA – A record breaking number of businesses, social service agencies, and branches of the military turned out for the annual Franklin County Technical School Career Expo where 113 seniors explored a wide range of career and cooperative education options.
Forty-one businesses from Franklin County and beyond were on hand for the event, the highest number since it was established nine years ago. The average number of employers to participate is usually 28-30. Raye Young, the FCTS cooperative education coordinator, attributes the increase in participating companies to a strong economy and better marketing of the event.
“There are more jobs and a higher need for employees,” she said. “They see the future growth of their companies.”
The Career Expo is no ordinary job fair. It is an important part of the school’s Cooperative Education Seminar course, and seniors who participate in the event do so as an assignment for the class.
Young, the Cooperative Education Seminar instructor, teaches her students job interviewing skills, such as how to dress, maintain eye contact with an interviewer, give a proper handshake, exercise punctuality, research the company where they are seeking a job, maintain good posture, be polite, and other skills.
“This is the first networking experience for the students with potential employers,” Young said.
Courtanie Howe of Northfield, a student in the school’s Culinary Arts program, said she was offered a number of cooperative education jobs on the spot, and was interested in accepting one of them.
“There are so many new opportunities that you don’t think of,” she said. “I have a broader view now of what I’d like to do when I graduate.”
Howe’s friend Erin O’Neil of Bernardston said the event was “awesome” because it offered students the chance to explore a wide range of companies.
“This is a good way to see companies that you wouldn’t think would have anything relatable to your shop,” the Culinary Arts student said. “But, there are lots of different departments in companies.”
O’Neil was exploring opportunities with the Army Reserve and the Air Force, as well as with local banks to see what qualifications she would need to obtain an entry-level job.
Plumbing student Ryleigh Barton of Greenfield also talked to a number of representatives form area banks about job opportunities.
“I like that people who work at banks work with the public,” she said. “I’m good at math, so working at a bank is something I’m interested in. But, I like to see all of the different companies that are here keep my options open.”
Jamie Sonnabend, vice president/market manager at People’s United Bank, said the bank has several open positions in a number of fields at its various branches. The minimum educational level to get hired is a high school diploma, and the bank is a strong supporter of continuing education.
“This is a really great event,” Sonnabend said of the Career Expo. “I love being part of this. We’re a big supporter of tech schools. My son goes to a tech school.”
To prepare for the Career Expo, the students researched the companies that were participating and prepared questions to ask company representatives. They also went on a scavenger hunt to find graduates of Franklin County Tech who are now employed by some of the companies.
“There are probably 8-10 tech school graduates here,” Young said. “This is an opportunity for students to see how the skills they learn at Franklin County Tech translate into the workforce.”
Patrick Hanas, a 2008 graduate of the FCTS Culinary Arts program is now a sous chef at the Blue Heron Restaurant and Catering. He started working at the Blue Heron when he was a student at the tech school, and after graduation attended culinary school.
After culinary school, Hanas worked at various restaurants before returning to the Blue Heron a year and a half ago.
“Going to school here immediately gave me a leg up,” he said. “I had a familiarity with the kitchen going into culinary school that other kids didn’t have. The Career Expo is a great idea. It gives kids a great face to face with people in the industry.”