Reformer: Brattleboro Career Expo set for Oct. 22, 2015: Raising awareness about employment in Windham County


By Maggie Brown Cassidy
Special to the Reformer

Posted Oct. 16, 2015
http://www.reformer.com/ci_28981407/brattleboro-career-expo-set-oct-20

BRATTLEBORO >> On Thursday, Oct. 22, area residents of all ages — from middle-school students to adults — will have opportunities to explore employment opportunities. From 1 to 5 p.m., representatives from area employers, employment agencies, and educational organizations will have booths set up at the Brattleboro Union High School for a Career Expo. Students and adults will be able to look for full- or part-time jobs, or look ahead to explore various careers and the training needed to pursue them. Then, later in the day, young professionals are invited to a Career Social at Duo Restaurant, to meet and network with entrepreneurs.

Dave Altstadt, Coordinator of the Windham Workforce Investment Board, said that the Expo is for the entire county.

“This is not just a Brattleboro career exploration,” he said. “We try to recruit employers from Bellows Falls and the Deerfield Valley and the Route 30 corridor — and we invite students and jobseekers from those area also.

“A number of high schools are sending their students ,” he went on. “They might be there to explore careers, apply for internships, or possibly look for seasonal or part-time jobs.”

While the Expo will offer some opportunities for both students and adults to apply for internships or jobs — seasonal, part-time, or full-time — on the spot, the longer-term goal is to raise awareness of jobs and careers in Windham County.

“Our sense is that we have a number of employers that are hidden in industrial parks, or we know that they are here, but we don’t necessarily know all that they do,” he said. “BMH (Brattleboro Memorial Hospital), for example — we know them for doctors and nurses, but we don’t necessarily know all the administrative and technical careers that they offer.

“It was our hope that by having this event and inviting everyone, and inviting employers, that people would start having these conversations and learn about an employer that they didn’t know about, or opportunities they weren’t aware of, or they could learn about a new career field that’s in demand,” he continued. “They would take steps after that, whether it’s going back to college or a training program to get a certain certification, or applying for a job or following up with an employer when something in that field might open up, and strive toward those better jobs we have around here.”

“This event is both a job fair to help people make those immediate connections, and also an opportunity for schoolchildren, adults and school-age youth to come in and learn about opportunities for careers,” he said, “so they don’t have to move away to pursue opportunities for good careers, or be stuck in a dead-end job.”

He noted that while many believe that young people need to move away to find solid employment, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s research asked employers about future hiring needs and found that there are many jobs in the area.

“There’s a common complaint that around there are not a lot of jobs,” he commented. “But as I think our expo demonstrates — the pure number of job openings advertised, the number of employers that come, and other data — it is in fact true that there are good jobs, particularly in manufacturing and healthcare.”

“There are jobs in a variety of career fields,” he continued. “They all need administrative support, they have positions in sales, — so regardless of people’s particular interest in work, they could find it in some of our prominent employers in key sectors of the economy. For example, some manufacturers need graphic designers.”

This year the Expo features specific outreach to eighth graders. Nearly all the public schools in Windham County are sending their eighth graders to visit the exhibits.

“We’ve created a separate session for area eighth graders, recognizing that it’s best to start exploring careers at a younger age,” Altstadt said. “They’re going to come in and do a career-themed scavenger hunt that (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation) developed to help guide their conversations with employers and colleges and learn about different careers and what they might want to do when they grow up.”

Altstadt noted that career exploration fits into each student’s Personal Learning Plan, or PLP. Last year the Vermont legislature passed Act 77, requiring every Vermont public-school student to develop a PLP to guide and document the student’s progress in school. Altstadt said he hoped the Expo could also help start conversations between students and parents around careers.

“If you’re a parent of an eighth grader, you might want to talk to them after they come back from the Career Expo and ask them what they’ve learned, and use it as an opportunity to tell them what you like and what you may not like about your career,” he said.

Altstadt said that he is excited about the Expo’s potential.

“I was very excited because I saw the possibility of reaching a lot of people,” he commented. “We had as many as 5000 people attend one of the past events, and we anticipate even more this year, given the great jobs that are out there and the great connections with schools.”

The Windham Workforce Investment Board, known as WIB, which is organizing both events, works with several organizational partners. The Vermont Department of Labor, Southeastern Vermont Community Action, the Windham Regional Career Center, Vermont Adult Learning, Vermont VocRehab, and Creative Workforce Solutions all send representatives to WIB’s board of directors.

On Thursday afternoon, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., WIB is sponsoring a Career Social in the backroom-bar area of Duo Restaurant for young professionals and college students, and others.

“They will be able to network and mingle with some of the employers and exhibitors at the event, as well as meet some local entrepreneurs in farm and food, technology and green building., to learn about how they’ve been able to follow their passion while living in Southeastern Vermont,” Altstadt said. “There will be free appetizers and a cash bar. It’s an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn — to get insight and inspiration from other entrepreneurs.

“We know that a lot of people, whether it’s their fulltime job or something that they do on the side, make and sell their own handcrafted products,” he continued. “That’s one of the things that makes Southern Vermont special, that we have an entrepreneurial culture. These folks will be there to share their successes and challenges in realizing their dreams, so other people can learn from them.

“They’ll have insights and tips for you regardless of your area of interest and what you want to do,” he went on. “They’re going to be set up with a poster with some information about their enterprise, who they are, and what they do, with some insights about what’s made them successful and what they’ve learned, so people can talk with them and get to the next level of conversation.”

“It’s primarily a networking event and an opportunity, if you’re interested in setting up your own enterprise and you want to get to the next step,” he concluded. “They’re young professionals who have built their own enterprise.”

For more information on the Career Expo and Career Social, visit www.vermontcareerexpo.com.

Maggie Brown Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@sover.net.

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