Agri-Business Center to host Career Expo

Today, more than 700 10th-grade students from across Blount County will travel to the Blount County-Oneonta Agri-Business Center for the second-annual Career Expo. The expo is intended to offer an opportunity for Blount County and Oneonta City School students to speak with local professionals about their careers.

Prior to last year, Hayden High School counselor Karron Standridge had always planned to initiate this sort of event, yet could never find the time to do so.

“I finally decided, whether I had time or not, this needed to be done,” she said. “This is what our students need and what’s important for them to see. This is proving to them that they can get a degree, come back to this community, and find a business here where they can enjoy their career.”

While many local businesses will be available to speak to the students, Wallace State Community College career coach Brenda Johnson said other not-so-local businesses will be on hand to talk with students, as well.

“We want to provide students the chance to have hands-on experience with careers inside and outside the community,” she said. “We have ambulances coming, virtual welding available, and 3-D technology to see. It’s all about the experience.”

As of Monday, 42 businesses had signed up to attend the expo and more were expected.

“The Career Expo is an awesome event for our 10th-graders to gain necessary skills and attitudes for a successful transition from school to work, postsecondary training, or education,” said Susan Moore High School counselor Cilia Smith. “We are fortunate to have so many great businesses help us educate our students about becoming college-and-career ready.”

The types of careers invited to the expo were geared toward the interest inventory tests that students take. Standridge says healthcare, welding, and cosmetology were three careers many students were interested in, but other businesses at the expo include sports medicine, broadcasting, and engineering.

“We are hoping this allows our 10thgraders to be open-minded about how many cool careers there are out there,” Standridge said. “As a counselor, we need to focus on education, but it’s also so important to guide students down a career pathway. Many ask why we do this with 10th-graders, and it’s because if we had this for our seniors it would be too late. The foundation needs to start earlier. Here at Hayden, eighth-graders do job shadowing, and with these new teaching standards third-graders are being introduced to career-related topics.”

Standridge said not just students can come to the expo. The community is welcome as well. She also said she’s impressed by how businesses respond to the event.

“I’m amazed by how many businesses take their time to share this information with our children,” she said. “It’s just as important to them as it is to our students.”

Cleveland High School counselor Amy Wilemon said the interaction among so many of these individuals and businesses is essential for students’ decision making for their future.

“The Blount County Career Expo is an excellent opportunity for our students to interact with business professionals from a variety of industries,” she said. “Our students receive information and ask questions to learn more about careers that interest them. This is one of the ways we are helping to prepare our students for their future.”