For more than four hours last Tuesday, East Wake High School students trooped through rows of exhibition tables. Behind each table stood representatives more than 40 businesses from all over eastern Wake County, from local governments and barbers to real estate developers and animal hospitals.
East Wake High School Career Development Coordinator Katie Coble said the career fair met with praise from teachers, students and participating businesses alike.
“Numerous exhibitors expressed interest in our growing Business Alliance and several... showed interest in our CTE Internship program and continuing future collaborative efforts,” Coble said.
The event was sponsored by the East Wake Business Alliance, a loose-knit group of business leaders and educators who serve career-education interests at East Wake High School and Wendell and Zebulon Middle Schools.
Business Alliance Chairwoman Tamah Hughes said she was pleased with the way the event turned out. “It did several things for the high school students and for the businesses that attended,” Hughes said. “This year’s event was bigger than the last few years and this gave many businesses opportunities to connect and find ways to partner up, which is great for our community.”
Students rotated through the school’s main gymnasium in 30-minute shifts, stopping to visit at exhibits which caught their interest. Some students attended the event with an assignment from their classroom teacher to learn more about the businesses they visited through the use of a questionnaire.
All told, nearly 75 percent of the school’s student body attended the fair, which is in stark contrast to previous years when it proved difficult for teachers to give up valuable class time to allow their students to attend. The fair served as the culminating event in a lesson Coble spent time teaching last week. “Over four days, I rotated to 43 of the participating classes to offer hands-on practice of everything from appropriate dress and shaking hands to the importance of maintaining eye contact and practicing introductions,” Coble said.
Organizers also worked to make this year’s career fair a little more fun for students and businesses. Classes with the highest attendance rate in each sesson won a pizza party and exhibitors were also treated to business card-raffles for discounts at local restaurants.
Start of something bigger
For Coble, this year’s career fair is her first at the school. She joined the staff at East Wake in August. She was clearly pleased with the outcome of the days event. “It was an educational day that supported hands-on learning, strengthened soft skills and promoted career opportunities,” Coble said. And, if reaction from students is any indicator, Coble’s assessment was right on the mark.
“Teachers reported to me that students were talking about the event hours after and even into the next day,” Coble said.
Hughes hopes the success of the event will translate into a larger, more active Business Alliance. “We are hoping to leverage skill sets from each business with the least amount of disruption for them and still get the most impact for the students,” Hughes said.
Finding business people to participate is a challenge for groups like the Business Alliance. Many of them are busy running their own companies and taking time out for community service can be a challenge. “We know that not all businesses can make the meetings or each event, so splitting that up or just participating where you can is a great help,” Hughes said.