Students, employers take center stage during county’s career expo
Don’t tell the exhibitors at the fifth annual Ozaukee Manufacturing and Career Expo that young people are apathetic about things like work.
The expo was hosted by Ozaukee Economic Development and Workforce Development, this year in cooperation with the Port Washington-Saukville School District.
The event has been held annually at high schools around Ozaukee County, with Port Washington High School hosting the March 19 expo in the school gym.
The mood at this year’s event was decidedly upbeat, both for the companies sending representatives and the Port High students who were offered insights into the job market that awaits upon graduation.
A particular emphasis of the expo is career options in the manufacturing sector, an area often given less attention in schools.
Kathleen Cady Schilling, executive director of Ozaukee Economic Development, has been a part of each of the expos, and she came away with a favorable impression of this year’s effort.
“I was thrilled with the Manufacturing and Career Expo this year,” Cady Schilling said.
“What we found was a lot of interest from the teachers and students. Teachers had students asking about specific career pathways and how the different businesses utilized different skills. The businesses came up to me and told me that the students seemed excited by the opportunities that are out there.”
Cady Schilling said the palpable enthusiasm from all involved could be attributed to the warming local economy.
“All too often lately, we talk about the lack of opportunities and the slow economy. Here we were talking about what kids could do in the future and how much they could make. I think they found that exciting,” she said.
Company representatives were just as happy to be part of the expo, Cady Schilling said.
“I think business is starting to improve, but also businesses are looking to the future. Many businesses see their employees aging and there being a limited pool of potential new workers,” she said.
“Manufacturers are looking for ways to connect with students and promote their industry. These fairs are a great way to help them make the connections.”
Among the 19 exhibitors was Grafton’s SEEK Careers and Staffing, which was represented by Jim Bruss, the company’s business development partner.
As a job placement firm with connections around the country, students learned that SEEK representatives have a good pulse of the employment climate.
Bruss said he and Erin Hosking, the company’s senior staffing consultant, were impressed with the way the high-school students approached the learning opportunity.
“Most of the young adults came in with questions to ask and a desire to learn more about SEEK Careers and Staffing and the other expo participants,” he said.
“Both of us were happy to see how many of the high school kids knew about SEEK Careers and Staffing. Some of them had friends, siblings or parents that had worked with SEEK Careers and Staffing to gain employment.”
Bruss said the contacts gained from the day were equally beneficial for him.
“From a networking standpoint, I had a chance to briefly talk to the other companies participating in the expo. Everyone expressed the importance of these types of events to inform the young people in high school of the manufacturing opportunities available in the immediate area and the ability to learn and progress into a nice career.”
Bruss said it is hard not to be philosophical about the enthusiastic reception seen at the expo.
“These students are our future and we cannot do enough to offer them information to help them decide what is best for them and their career path. It was a great event,” Bruss said.
Businesses taking part in the expo included: KMC Stamping, Kleen Test Products, Modern Equipment and Molded Dimensions, all of Port Washington; Calibre Inc., Gauthier Biomedical, John Crane Orion, Kapco Inc., Ram Tool and SEEK Careers and Staffing, all of Grafton; Charter Steel of Saukville; Carlson Tool of Cedarburg; Lakeside Foods of Belgium; GenMet and Telesmith, both of Mequon; and Busch Precision of Milwaukee.
Also taking part in the event were ITT Technical College, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development.
THE MANUFACTURING AND CAREER Expo held March 19 at Port Washington High School proved popular with students and exhibitors. Above, Anna Diaz of Carlson Tool in Cedarburg chatted with students about job opportunities in the manufacturing sector.