Local companies grill students

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, April 2, 2009

Booth after booth was set up with companies grilling prospective employees about the skills they could bring the companies.

If all the activity in the Hilton Garden Inn’s conference room were real, there would be no talk of a recession.

It was, however, a series of mock interviews taking place for Suffolk Public Schools 2008-2009 Career Expo. Forty-two companies sent representatives to meet with seniors from all three of the city’s public high schools and from the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology.

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“It’s been fun,” said Nansemond River High School senior Maya Brown. “I’ve really liked it. Everyone has been really enthusiastic, and they give you really good ways to get good feedback.”

Students were given a list of participating businesses, which ranged from city employment to modeling and simulation industries. They could pick some of the businesses to research and get more information on, but they were also encouraged to do “walk up” interviews, where they simply walked up to the booth, introduced themselves and continued with an interview without previous knowledge of the company.

After each student’s mock interview, the interviewer completed a feedback sheet critiquing language, appearance, résumé and overall interview technique. Nansemond River senior Iesha Harris said being able to be critiqued was an important opportunity.

“Just to experience this is important, because they are out in the world,” Harris said. “I will be graduating soon and out there by myself, and these interview skills are important out there.”

Set up by the Career and Technical Education department of the public schools, the event was co-sponsored by Suffolk Public Schools, Lockheed Martin and the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center.

The students were there on a volunteer basis, but they had to have completed a CTE program in order to come.

“That way, we know they have taken the courses that prepare them for this day,” said Gail Bess, coordinator of Career and Technical Education and Adult Education. “This is the culmination day for them. They have come very well prepared, and they look wonderful.”

Interviewers for the day were also impressed with this year’s crop of students.

“It’s been a real snapshot of the future workforce,” said Mary Beth Johnson, employment administrator for the City of Suffolk. “So many kids are really driven and focused on what they want. Their teachers did a great job in guiding them to prepare, and that’s helped them. This is the chance that you get to practice landing that dream job.”