Last Thursday, upperclassmen at Windham High School were given the chance to start planning their lives after high school at the second annual Career and College Fair hosted by Jobs for Maine Graduates and the MELMAC Education Foundation. The participants were double what they were the first year, according to JMG coordinator Nicole Sturgis. “This is the start of your planning. With 4,000 colleges and 840 occupations, how do you start figuring that out?” she asked the students.
After a speech by WHS Principal Christopher Howell, the students were set free in the gym to talk to representatives from business like AAA, Windham Weaponry and System Architecture. Colleges from as far away at Alabama and UMaine Presque Isle had representatives in attendance. Many branches of the military were also present.
“I’m looking at a lot of military stuff,” said sophomore Thomas Carrol. “It’s what my family is doing and I want to be in.”
“I thought it went great,” said Sturgis. “The juniors were really into it. It’s where they are in their career in high school.”
Windham Weaponry attended for the first time and donated over $100 in gift cards for drawings that happened after students visited tables.
“We weren’t sure how our company would fit coming into the school. We have different disciplines in the company, engineers, quality control and purchasing and business in general, said Allen Faraday, Executive VP of Operations at Windham Weaponry.
System Architecture and Maine’s independent insurance agency both donated gift cards. AAA, one of the most popular tables because it was interactive, raffled off two $200 certificates for driver’s education. IDEXX and UNUM both held raffles for tours of their facilities for six students each.
“We love getting out into the community. We need to help build (STEM jobs) here in Maine,” said IDEXX representative Carolyn Hart.
In the water, sewer, storm drain industry, there are great opportunities. “In our industry there will be major turn over in the next three to five years,” said Joe Hersom, marketing representative at E.J. Prescott, Inc. His company developed a training program for students who can’t or don’t want to go to college. During the two year program, the students continue to work and get paid while in school.
“I’m glad to see the trades are coming back,” said Ron Eby, owner of Windham Automotive. “There’s far more cars to repair than technicians. We can’t push all of them to college –it’s not for all those kids,” he said.
Seeing the college representatives allows the students to make connections and hear about what they can be doing to get ready for college. Sturgis is working to make sure students are doing college planning earlier, before their senior year.
“Every year of college is like buying a new car and we spend more time researching cars than we do colleges. We’re abdicating the decision to the kids,” Sturgis concluded.
As for the future of the college and career fair, Sturgis would like it to continue with a committee made up of teachers and students who will do the planning.