Learning, networking go both ways at career expo | AspenTimes.com

Learning, networking go both ways at career expo

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Kip Jessup now knows the right questions to ask at a high school career fair, based on his own experience growing up in Rifle.

Even though he may not have asked those questions then, the loan officer at Bank of Colorado in Glenwood Springs can share that experience with today's students and offer a little first-hand knowledge from years past.

"It's good to give them advice about what I wish I had done when I was going around looking at all these different vendors," Jessup said during the valleywide Spring GlenX Career Expo held at Roaring Fork High School on Tuesday.

"I'm not only able to talk to them specifically about what I do, but just give them some advice on what's important," he said. "One of them is, don't sleep through your classes, because they are important and they do relate directly to the field you might want to go into."

This is the fourth year that the career fair has combined high schools from throughout the valley, and the event has grown to a fall expo serving Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley high schools, and the spring event serving Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork, Basalt, Yampah Mountain, Bridges and Aspen high schools.

"It's grown every year, and we're probably cycling almost 2,000 students through here today," said Mike Lowe, a founder of GlenX and its nonprofit arm, Social Bridge.

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"We want students to understand as much as they can about a variety of careers, and hopefully help them make more efficient choices about where to go to college, or wherever they go for that next step to hopefully lead them to the job that they eventually want to do for a long time," Lowe said.

The mostly junior- and senior-level students had the opportunity to check out information booths from 147 different businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, military representatives and colleges. They also listened to motivational speakers, including successful businessman and philanthropist Jim Calaway, Aspen Institute Vice President Cristal Logan, and Sarahi Salamanca, founder of the Dreamers Roadmap serving immigrant students.

"One thing that's exciting is a lot of these students don't realize how many job opportunities exist in the valley," Lowe said. "So this is an opportunity for them to say, 'Hey, I'm not only learning a little bit more about what I might want to do in life, but there are opportunities back home.'

"Through that, maybe we can attract these students to come back here and establish relationships with some of these business owners," he said.

Roaring Fork High School freshman Victor Perez is hunting for a summer job, and said he found several possibilities at the career fair.

"Something like this really opens up a lot of doors, if you need to find a job," he said, adding he might pursue engineering or automobile mechanics later in life.

Tim Barnley, a student at Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, was behind one of the vendor tables Tuesday as part of the student-run Havoc skateboard design business that was started at the school last fall. So, he had the opportunity to talk to his peers about how to start a business while also drumming up a little business.

"With most businesses, you buy what they have available," Barnley said. "We can design anything you can picture in your head, with a customized design on the board, or customized wheels or struts.

"It's my favorite sport, and it's fun to get to work with it every day," he said.

David Boyd of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Colorado River Valley Field Office was on hand to talk to the students about possible careers in natural resources.

"Most all of our jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, so a school like CSU would be a good place to go for that," Boyd said.

"We also have our Rocky Mountain Youth Corps summer jobs program," he added. "It's a really good first job in natural resources, so you can start making some connections and find out if you might like to work in the outdoors."

Career Expo event organizer Jayne Poss said the combined event allows more businesses and more students to participate, while individual schools can still have smaller, more one-on-one types of career oriented sessions.

"One of the most positive things to come out of it is businesses are now signing up to offer internships, career shadowing and summer jobs," Poss said. "That didn't really happen before, but now they're all tuned in to that potential. It's great to see this community of businesses all participating and working for the future of the students who live in this valley."

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