WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High School students had a chance to browse through a lavish jobs and training smorgasbord on Friday at the school's annual career fair. All 1,125 students had a chance to visit the fair during their advisory periods, and Andrea Spas, assistant principal, described the event as an important networking opportunity.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students to network with industry partners, professionals in the field, people from universities, colleges, the military, learn directly from them what it takes to be competitive," she said.
The morning session in the gymnasium was followed by an entrepreneurs’ panel discussion. The goal, Superintendent Barry Ricci said, was to get students to begin thinking about what they might want to do for a living.
“They have the entrepreneurship panel, which is excellent,” he said. “It gets them thinking. That’s what we want — for them to be thinking about their future.”
Chariho seniors Maura Beaudreau and Matt Dickerman organized the event.
Beaudreau said she had just done an internship with Principal Craig MacKenzie, “So, this was my main task, helping out with the career fair.”
“I wasn’t in an internship,” Dickerman added. “I did an independent study, so it’s a block where you choose what you want to learn and how you want to learn it. Mine was focusing on planning a career fair.”
One of the biggest challenges, Dickerman said, was lining up the industry representatives months in advance. “The event was too far out where they couldn’t quite say yes or no,” he said. In the end, 65 professionals participated.
Beaudreau said, “We definitely sent out a couple of blasts of emails to people and we made a bunch of calls … We had to keep calling people to see if they would come and by the end, we had a pretty good number. We do have a lot of health and medical occupations because I think that’s a popular choice for students. And then we have a few colleges here.”
Representatives from law enforcement, several state agencies, the military, corporations and even a floral designer were also on hand to talk with students.
“We wanted to keep it broad and keep a lot of choices for students because we don’t know necessarily what they might want to do and they don’t either,” Dickerman said.
Michael Freelove, senior manufacturing representative with Electric Boat, works with career and technical centers across Rhode Island, including Chariho Tech. Freelove was hoping to meet students who might be interested in pursuing welding and other careers.
“So many students think EB is just metal fabrication,” he said. “We have a lot of other positions in the administrative end, in the robotics end, in the engineering end, in design. We’re trying to get into schools, get more involved, send mentors in to go into the lab, go into the classroom and show the students all the career pathways that are available at EB.”
Fred Mattera was representing the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, talking to students about the center’s apprenticeship program. Mattera said his message to interested students was that commercial fishing is a lucrative but demanding profession and one that requires dedication and commitment.
“It’s a commitment, and that’s the hardest part,” he said. “Having two years already of the apprenticeship program, I think we’ve seen that sometimes with the young people, they don’t realize that commitment, the time and the effort, and that if you don’t show up on time, you don’t make the boat, you actually cost the boat owner and another crew member substantial money.”
Chariho freshmen Fiona Oatley, Autumn Liguori-Bells and Anna LaCroix said they were enjoying exploring the diverse careers.
“It gives kids opportunities to see what they can do in the future, and I think that’s good, because not everyone knows what they’re going to do,” Oatley said.
Liguori-Bells appreciated the variety of careers represented. “There’s lots of different careers here and some that I don’t know a lot about, so it’s really interesting to learn about my different options for my future,” she said.
Like her friends, LaCroix said she was undecided about a career and was finding it useful to learn more about different professions. “This helps me see what’s out there and helps spark interest for other people, too,” she said
Chariho Tech hospitality students welcomed the industry representatives to the gymnasium and helped them set up. Lunch was prepared by students in the culinary arts program.
“The great thing about this is the opportunity to expose students to all the different careers that are out there, and just the opportunities,” Chariho Tech Director Gerald Auth said. “We can talk to them until we’re blue in the face about the opportunities for them, but to hear from industry really adds a lot of value to the experience.”