W.Va. Department of Education hosts first-ever reverse job fair

Students from all throughout Fayette County participated Tuesday in a first-of-its-kind "Reverse Job Fair" at Fayette Institute of Technology (FIT), where students showed recruiters what they have to offer to a company, instead of the other way around. 

Hosted by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and West Virginia Development Office’s Apprenticeship in Motion (AIM), the goal of the reverse job fair was to help career and technical education students who are currently preparing for graduation find a job in the workforce in West Virginia. 

As part of the reverse job fairs, CTE Simulated Workplace students set up industry-specific booths to showcase their talents and skills in hopes of getting snagged by an industry official.

Some industries highlighted during Tuesday's fair were agriculture, architecture and construction, hospitality and tourism, business, manufacturing and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). 

Dr. Kathy D’Antoni, WVDE Associate Superintendent of Schools, told The Register-Herald there has been a disconnect for employers being able to find good employees. 

"So, we decided to do this," D'Antoni said at Tuesday's fair. "Our students are graduating with high level skill sets and have taken part in great programs. They've gone through a simulated workplace, which means they've run their companies for a couple years while in school, and they're trying to find employment for when they graduate."

D'Antoni also noted all students who graduate from the programs are drug-free and have agreed to drug-testing, making it easier for employers to hire them. 

"We just really want to connect employers to the emerging workforce — that's what this is all about," she said. "We want these students to stay in West Virginia when they graduate, and we want to build the workforce here. We don't want to lose them to the bordering states."

Jonna Myers, a pre-pharmacy student at FIT, expressed her excitement over the reverse job fair, and feels if they keep being conducted, it could really help West Virginia economically. 

"We need more people in the workforce here in West Virginia," Myers said. "Our state is poor, and the more good workers we have will help with that problem." 

Officials from companies such as Ford, Strategic Resolution Experts and the Secretary of State's Office were also present during the fair, seeking potential hires. 

Makayla Bourgard, also a student at FIT, called the event "a good opportunity for not only students, but the state as a whole." 

"We lose a lot of people who graduate to companies out of state, and if we want West Virginia to do better, we have to keep our workforce here," she said. "I think this is a great way to start." 

The WVDE will be hosting other reverse job fairs throughout the state the rest of April and into May. 

— Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH 

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