Students, employers meet for Exeter High’s first job fair

Exeter hosts local job fair for high school seniors, focuses on employers that hire entry-level workers with little to no work experience

EXETER – University attendance has dropped significantly since the pandemic, causing many high school graduates to jump straight into the workforce. To help, Exeter hosted their very first job fair.

Exeter Union High School’s (EUHS) assistant principal, Amanda Cooper, said that there is a lot of college prep in high schools, but little to no workforce prep. As times change, and more students begin working outside of high school rather than entering higher education, EUHS partnered with the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, Workability and the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board to help bring employers to their students. The job fair was held on April 12, and had roughly 100 EUHS seniors in attendance.

“This is the very first time that we have done anything like this in the school district of Exeter,” Beth Allen, student job developer at EUHS, said. “The big thing we wanted to do is cater to the kids who just really don’t know what they want to do, or those who didn’t feel like they could attend a four year university. We wanted to show them that there’s options out there.”

Allen helps with the Workability program on campus, which is dedicated to finding career options for high school students on special needs pathways. However since that case load is so small, they decided to extend the job fairs to all of Exeter’s high school seniors as well. That’s when she reached out to Monica Andrade, the recruitment assistance coordinator for the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board. In order to make this job fair happen, Allen’s job was to find the students, and Andrade’s was to find the employers.

“There are internship opportunities [at the fair], scholarship opportunities from different schools here and many of the stations have online applications that kids can fill out today for open positions,” Cooper said.

Though this was the first job fair for Exeter, it wasn’t Andrade’s first rodeo. She had recently put on a job fair for Tulare seniors, as well as Cutler-Orosi seniors for the first time last year. She plans to bring the job fair to other cities too, such as Lindsay and Visalia. Andrade said that when she reaches out to potential employers, it’s important that they are local. Not only does this help students who are not ready to move yet, but it also accommodates students who may not have transportation.

“We reach out to employers locally if they’re hiring anybody who is 17 or 18, usually with minimum to no experience. Although, that can be a little difficult to find,” Andrade said. “There are even some employers that actually will interview on the spot.”

Allen said that the job fairs help seniors get a taste of being an adult. She said students are prepared before the fair, and taught how to shake hands, talk to potential employers and ask good questions. After that, the students are sent off onto the sea of booths and “treated like adults.” Andrade also said that this is an opportunity for students to learn how to talk to adults in person. It can be easy to apply for jobs online, but it’s important that employers meet a potential applicant in person, which can help in the hiring process later on.

“You want that [employer] to see you so that you make an impression. That way, when they get that list from the people that applied online, they’ll remember you and they’ll remember your name,” Andrade said. “We encourage students to have that communication.”

Cooper said that EUHS has been growing in their workforce prep. Not only are they giving more hiring resources to students, but they are also accommodating to seniors who are employed. Seniors are able to have a class schedule that doesn’t conflict with their shifts.

“A few [students] do have work experience classes, and they already have jobs,” Cooper said. “They’ll leave early in the day or come in later in the morning because they’re at work. We’re looking to partner more with employers as well, in order for students to get more work experience so they’re prepared when they graduate.”

Andrade also added that any employers or businesses interested in attending a job fair should contact her, as there will be many more to come in the future. The next job fair will be held in Lindsay in mid-May.

“This is just a great opportunity. It’s the first time, but I’m impressed with our kids that are coming out, even though they were very nervous,” Cooper said. “I’m very pleased with how they’re interacting with the employers and adults.”

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