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High-schoolers explore opportunities at Workforce 2020 career expo

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The gymnasium at Jefferson Community College was full of young adults dressed to impress making their way through lines of potential employers looking for the right candidate at the 2014 Workforce 2020.

Friday’s 10th annual event drew more than 1,500 students from 19 Lewis and Jefferson County high schools and 100 local businesses hoping they could meet their future business associates.

“Hi, take a seat,” Canice L. Fitzgerald, a registered nurse at Samaritan Medical Center, told two South Lewis High School students. Ms. Fitzgerald works in addiction services at the hospital and came to the event to talk with the students about careers in the medical field. She began her interview by asking about personal interests.

“I want to focus on neuroscience and experimental psychology,” said Katherine Olmstead, a senior at South Lewis High School.

Ms. Fitzgerald told Miss Olmstead to make sure when looking at colleges to see if the programs match career goals.

Other career fields represented included entertainment and production, civil engineering and construction, retail, communications and human services, government municipality and administration, law enforcement, graphic design and advertising, renewable energy and education.

Lynn M. Pietroski, president and CEO of the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, said the students were asked to dress and present themselves as if they were on actual job interviews. The annual event is meant to prepare students to enter the workforce as well as introduce them to possible careers.

Corey Fram, marketing manager for the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, said he met students with goals that could creatively merge into the tourism field. He said he was impressed that students he interviewed were creative enough to see a career track and not just a job.

“Tourism is a big employer in Northern New York,” Mr. Fram said. “There are a lot of opportunities, especially when lining up with hospitality. I hope they don’t overlook job opportunities.”

By having multiple professionals representing a variety of jobs in their fields, Ms. Pietroski said, it was a chance for students to get creative with their future and still be employed in the north country.

“I think it really brings home a message Governor Cuomo talked about in his State of the State address, the importance of local job growth,” Ms. Pietroski said.

Rachael Humphrey, a senior from South Lewis Central School, said she was waiting to speak with local veterinarian offices and animal service professionals.

“I want to work with dairy animals,” Miss Humphrey said. “It’s a big business here, and I want to stay in the area.”

She said that she originally wanted to study small animal veterinary services, but that after working on her grandparents’ farm clipping cows in the winter, she realized it could be a career path for her.

The students were expected to prepare for their sessions before the event. Most brought copies of their resumes and a cover letter. They were required to participate in at least three interviews and received feedback from the businesses they met.

Cathleen A. Freeman, a cosmetology instructor at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES, said she coached her students before the event on making a good first impression, to dress appropriately and to have a good follow-up question for their interview.

“I told them first impressions do matter,” Mrs. Freeman said. “I wasn’t afraid to tell one student they shouldn’t be chewing gum during the interview.”

Ms. Pietroski said feedback from students and employers suggested it was a successful and productive day, and shed hoped both benefitted from the experience.

Workforce 2020 was sponsored by the Chamber, Jefferson Lewis BOCES, North Country Human Resources Association, Samaritan Medical Center, Jefferson Community College, Jefferson County Local Development Corp., The Work Place and the Workforce Investment Board.

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