Lakeland High School senior Caleb Thomas gets some tips on job-hunting from Joe Bonney, service director at Starr Motors, during the 23rd Annual Career Expo, at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday.
Lakeland High School senior Caleb Thomas gets some tips on job-hunting from Joe Bonney, service director at Starr Motors, during the 23rd Annual Career Expo, at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday.

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Expo gives students taste of real life

Published 10:06pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

A large crowd of seniors from Suffolk’s public high schools had a dose of reality Thursday.

The 23rd Annual Career Expo, sponsored by Suffolk Public Schools Career and Technical Education Advisory Council at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn, brought them face-to-face with representatives from 25 companies.

The City of Suffolk, its Department of Public Works’ Engineering Division, Suffolk Fire and Rescue, Suffolk Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Ship Repair Association also had booths.

“When I was in school, they didn’t have this to help us get ahead in the workforce,” said Latroy Brinkley, owner of Serendipity Hair Salon.

“A lot of my (old) teachers are here, and I try to come back and give to those who gave to me.”

Students prepared for the expo by composing resumes and honing their interview skills. Amos Peterson, a technology education teacher, said employees provided a list of 21 “workplace readiness skills” for students to work on.

“They are everyday skills that someone going out into the work world would need,” he said.

“We also try to get them to look for possible careers; we try to stay away from careers that are not flourishing.”

Dressing appropriately can be challenging for the students, according to Peterson.

“Our big challenge is to get them prepared and get them to come,” he added.

Phyllis Elmore, a family and consumer science teacher, said it’s important to teach students to be “personable.”

“A smile can go a long way,” she said.

“I tell my students that high school is not the real world; it’s preparation for the real world. We try to get them ready for the job market as they leave high school.

“Things they might think are appropriate in school are not appropriate in a job. We have to work with them on that.”

Lakeland High School student Vivian Fullerton said her biggest challenge was finding the confidence employers look for.

“I feel nervous, and I get shy,” she said.

Anthony Turner, also from Lakeland, said the expo was teaching him “how to interview properly; how to keep eye contact; and pretty much just how to approach people and talk to them and influence them to hire me.”

Turner wore a tie embroidered with an “A” for his native Alabama, which he said was a good talking point. After making his rounds, he said he thought SunTrust would be an attractive company to work for.

“She was talking about benefits,” he said. “They actually help you pay for college; I think that’s pretty interesting.”

According to Ross Boone, an advisory council member, “Career and Technical Education does more than any other program that the school systems offer anywhere. One of the best way to get kids prepared is to go out into the real world.”

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