In October, nearly 70 organizations including area businesses, military branches, colleges and universities attended the Seacoast School of Technology’s College & Career Fair in Exeter.
While acknowledging its usefulness for students interested in learning more about potential careers, SST Principal Margaret Callahan said the well-attended annual event reveals the importance of the partnerships
between career and technical education centers and local businesses and industries.
“SST is fortunate to have hundreds of industry partners right here in the Seacoast region, many of whom have supported our school since we opened in 1980,” she said.
According to Callahan, these partners support SST in a number of ways.
“They serve on our advisory committees, speak to our classes, provide job shadows, donate equipment, participate in numerous events and career and technical student organizations, offer internships, provide scholarships and more,” she said.
SST Equity Counselor Sharon Spooner agreed and said events like the fair help bring attention to some of the in-demand career opportunities that exist today.
“It can help students take that next step, whether it be continuing their education or entering into the workforce,” she said.
Callahan added, “We also invited Great Bay eLearning Charter Schoolstudents as well as students from the Exeter Adult Education program. It is a true community event.”
Al Lawrence, owner of Artisan Electrical Contractors in Madbury, said he always makes a point to participate in these types of events, which underscore the importance of CTEs.
“I’m a huge fan of CTE,” he said. “We have a great need for the role that it plays. Any time I can go in and talk to kids about the benefits of CTE and explain the ‘nuts and bolts’ and what they can expect in my industry and ones related to what we do, I’m all for it.”
Dennis Lucia, field operation manager at Methuen Construction in Plaistow,
agrees with Lawrence and said attendance at career fairs is almost mandatory in any trade industry.
“We have to do different things today,” he said. “Years ago, you put in an ad for help in the paper and people would call. Things are different now. Today, you need different strategies to hire workers. We need to find them. We need to make our future...The students that we meet at these events are possible future teammates, so we need to remember they are not going to find us on their own -- we need to go find them.”
Describing “face time” with students at fairs and similar networking events as invaluable, Lucia said he wants at least a certain percentage of the individuals he meets to remember Methuen Construction.
“If three out of 10 remember us, I’m satisfied,” he said. “If we can get even just one hire from it that we can count on in the future, it’s worth the effort.”
CTEs are not just an employment pipeline for the trades industry.
Thomas DeSisto, general manager of the Exeter Inn and Epoch Restaurant & Barin Exeter, said many current staff members hail from SST. He said their attendance at SST’s College & Career Fair not only demonstrates their support for the school, but ensures the Exeter Inn and Epoch Restaurant stays relevant to the current student body.
“Our executive chef, sous chef and lead line cook are all graduates from the school,” he said. “We also have a graduate from SST at our front desk and have a current student working in the kitchen cross-training between dish and prep work.”
DeSisto said the need for individuals with skills in the trades cannot be overemphasized.
“In our hotel alone, we have needs for electricians, plumbers, welders, carpenters, information technology specialists, chefs and so much more,” he said. “Having a school like SST just an eighth of a mile away is an invaluable resource for our hotel and restaurant.”
Will Arvelo, president of Great Bay Community College, which also was
represented at the fair, said such events answer one fundamental uestion.
“Where are the future employees in this state going to come from?” he said. “We need to work backward from the business industry and look at the jobs, what are the skills employees will need and walk that back in real time. Let’s build a pipeline from K through 12 through college or university and into a career.”
Lawrence agrees and said CTEs provide students with experiences not possible in a classroom setting.
“There are a lot of careers where I think a traditional college education makes the most sense, but there are others where it doesn’t,” he said. "Would I send you to college to learn about riding a bike or would I just help you ride the bike? The same process holds true in the trades of any programs in CTE.”