In search of business partners

Published 11:06 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

Students from the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology put their best feet forward on Thursday in an effort to sell area business leaders on the value of participating in an April Career Expo.

Students with firm handshakes, broad smiles and cheerful greetings were on hand to greet the visitors when they got to Pruden, and the welcoming committee members were eager to talk about how much they enjoy their Career and Technical Education coursework.

A buffet-style breakfast attended by a staff of courteous student servers showed off the talents of the school’s culinary arts students and gave participants a literal taste of its curriculum.

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The event was part of a promotional effort by the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council aimed at increasing the number of area businesses that participate in the annual Career Expo in the spring.

There were 44 representatives from 29 businesses involved in the event last spring, and they conducted 543 interviews with 189 students in an effort to give Pruden students some experience with the job interview process.

One of the most-frequently heard comments from students since that 17th-annual Expo has been that there were not enough business participants. The students were given a chance to request representatives from specific industries, and Thursday’s breakfast meeting was an opportunity for some of those representatives to learn a little about Pruden and the Career Expo.

Advisory Council members were encouraged by the level of interest on Thursday, noting that it was the first time there had been more industry representatives than educators on hand for the kickoff event.

Organizers encouraged attending business representatives on Thursday to commit to participating in the Expo April 2 at the Hilton Garden Inn.

During that event, students dress up, bring résumés and sit down with business leaders for interviews, during which the business representatives take notes and grade the students on their interview performances.

Noting that most folks would like to have had a chance to practice for their big job interviews, Advisory Council Vice Chair Mary Beth Johnson said, “You’ll be assisting these kids in their trial run.”

It’s not always just a trial run, though. Following the last Expo, 22 percent of participating students reported getting job offers during the day. Nearly three-quarters of employers said the students they interviewed were “adequately prepared” for their interviews and said they would consider hiring someone they had interviewed.

The Career Expo is just one example, said Career and Technical Education Coordinator Gail V. Bess, of how the work at Pruden has changed in the last couple of decades.

“It’s not the old vocational school, and it’s not the old home economics class,” she said.

For more information about the Career Expo, call Bess at 925-6760.