BROCKWAY — Every other year, the Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School brings area employers and colleges to talk to students in seventh through ninth grades.
Twenty employers or colleges took part in the Career Fair on Wednesday, despite the constant snow. This is the 13th such event at Brockway and it filled the gymnasium with presenters and students. Careers represented ranged from lawyers to radiologists to state police to wildlife management.
“The amazing thing about the Career Fair is the support I get from the community,” explained Brockway Transition Coordinator Terri Fleeger, who plans the event. “With a small community, it may be difficult to find new employers, but we welcome any new businesses to attend. The ones who come donate their time to come talk to our students and we thank them very much.”
While some might think talking to seventh graders is too early, many of the organizations see their attendance as helping students begin to develop a plan.
“You have to prepare,” said Bill Hrinya of Advanced Disposal. “Like the old saying goes, ‘People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.’”
Penn Highlands’ Amy Bankovic agreed.
“We’re looking to recruit differently now,” she said. “There’s a national nursing shortage, so we’re telling students about some opportunities they have.”
“It is incredibly important for students in these grades to see what’s available to them after school,” Fleeger added. “By ninth grade, they’re deciding on what kind of track they want to do. Are they going to focus on the technical courses or will they be more academic? If they don’t have a plan early, how can they make decisions when their credits count? They also get to see how many great jobs we have right here in this area. They don’t have to leave if they know what’s available and how to plan on working there.”
Bankovic said that Penn Highlands had a summer nursing internship for students in nursing programs as well as job shadowing in which students can participate when they reach 16. She also said that most of the nurses they are hiring have two-year degrees.
“People don’t realize the different fields you can work in,” Bankovic said. “You can do emergency nursing, maternity care, or even become a traveling nurse and see the country. There are so many options.”
Options also dominated Hrinya’s discussion regarding Advanced Disposal.
“Everyone thinks we just drive garbage trucks,” he said. “We do that, if you’re interested, but we also have sales people, mechanics, safety educators, scientists, and more.”
Hrinya’s degree is in education, and he uses that at Advanced Disposal. Getting a degree in one thing and doing another was something that stood out to some students.
Kayla Jamison, a sophomore who went to the fair to conduct interviews for her journalism class, talked to a few people who thought they wanted to do one thing but ended up in other fields.
“The Bureau of State Parks people had degrees in elementary education,” Jamison said to give an example. “They did a summer program at Parker Dam and decided that they liked working with wildlife better.”
Another person who mentioned changing directions in life was Corporal Charles Hockenberry of the Pennsylvania State Police.
“If students don’t look at our minimum requirements to apply, they may miss a chance to join,” he said. “We recently changed our requirements to 30 college credits to apply, but you have to have completed 60 by the time you go to the Academy.”
Students could go to college for one thing, but decide to join the State Police, and change directions. But college is not the only option.
“Four years of active-duty military service will waive the college credits requirements,” Hockenberry added.
The colleges represented also impressed the students. Some felt that they wanted to go to Penn State University after talking to its representative. Others were impressed with the relatively low cost of Butler County Community College.
In the end, students at Brockway learned that they have options post-high school. They also learned that certain degrees can open up jobs in fields that they might think unrelated. That career-availability is something Fleeger hoped students would pick up.
“They see now what they can do without moving away from our area,” Fleeger said. “And I’m very proud when the employers come to me and say, ‘Your kids were wonderful and asked great questions.’ It’s a great feeling to see this go so well every year. And the employers leave saying how great it is that Brockway does this Career Fair for its students.”
Attending the fair this year were Advanced Disposal; Butler County Community College at Brockway; BCAT; Brockway Area Ambulance Association; Brockway Volunteer Hose Company; Penn Highlands of DuBois Imaging Department; Penn Highlands of DuBois Nursing Recruitment; Penn Highlands of DuBois Laboratory; Ferraro, Kruk, & Ferraro Attorneys at Law; First Commonwealth Bank; Seven Mountains Media; Goodwill Industries; Jeff Tech; CareerLink; Office of Vocational Rehabilitation; PA Department of Transportation; Pennsylvania State Police; Bureau of State Parks; Penn State University; S&T Bank; and Triangle Tech.