Students, employers look to the future at Career Expo

Students, employers look to the future at Career Expo

Written by Mary Clarkin, The Hutchinson News, November 15, 2016 – Lyons High School junior Mackenzie Oster said she didn’t know anything about Colby Community College before she arrived Tuesday morning at the Career Expo: Planning for Their Future at the Hutchinson Mall.

Now, Colby is on Oster’s short list, along with Barton Community College.

“Me and animals get along,” she said, and Colby’s veterinary technician program appeals to her.

 Oster also stopped at the Hutchinson Police Department’s booth and learned about the job of animal control officer.

“Do I have to go to college for that?” she asked. No, and she wouldn’t have to carry a gun, police told the not-a-fan-of-guns Oster.

In the meantime, the Hutchinson Animal Shelter welcomes volunteers, the police suggested.

And that prompted some questions about volunteering at the shelter from the curious Oster.

ESSDACK’s first annual two-day Career Expo is aimed at introducing students to new possibilities and showing them how they can achieve them. Over 2,600 students will visit at least some of the 100-plus exhibits before the Career Expo wraps up today.


It’s a perfect storm for the heating-ventilation-air conditioning industry, according to Keven Ward, at Trane’s booth.

HVAC technicians are an aging workforce, and building structures and the grid are aging, too, he said. There is a “super-high demand” for workers in climate and energy control technologies, Ward said.

The median salary for HVAC technicians in the Midwest is just under $50,000 a year. When students hear that, Ward said, their faces light up.

Labs where students can receive hands-on training are available at Washburn Tech and at Wichita Area Technical College. Only steps away from the Trane booth was a series of Washburn booths – 10 different stations in all – highlighting technologies.

They requested that, said ESSDACK leadership consultant Mike Sanders of the Trane-Washburn proximity. Sanders noted BTI, which sells John Deere equipment, was near a booth showcasing the John Deere TECH Program.

At some sites, students were behind the booth, able to provide information to their peers. Hutchinson High School student Tyler Brawner has taken welding and machining classes. By the end of this school year, she’ll have about 30 college credit hours.

Cloud County Community College sophomore Lucas Helget and freshman Shay Horton spoke about the school’s wind energy technology program, as well as college life. As for life after college, Horton said the worker shortage in wind energy makes it “number one in the nation for job placement.”

On their own

School buses from Barber, Ness, McPherson, Butler, Pratt, Rice, Harvey, Harper and Reno counties formed neat rows in the mall parking lot. Inside, though, it was what one booth worker described as “free form.” Students chose their own stops. Students moved in small groups or alone. Booths filled the mall’s corridors and branched into empty storefronts. The employers and community colleges and technical schools offered free gifts, such as pens, Frisbees, lanyards or keychains.

“It’s always helpful to give them something with the logo,” said Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System’s human resources representative Kacey Krehbiel, at a booth where students could pick up a pen or a little notebook.

Pretty Prairie High School junior Kassidy Keeler will turn 17 years old in December. She’s on track to earn a license as a certified nursing assistant in February. She eventually hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in the nursing field, but at the Hutchinson Regional booth, she inquired how old a CNA had to be to work at the hospital. Seventeen, she was told.

At the Tyson Foods booth, some students asked about summer jobs and learned the minimum age was 18 years old and job-seekers could apply online.

Western Plains High School senior Rachel Cofer plans to head to college and was trying to look at everything at the expo. She stopped at Crossland Construction Co.’s booth and recruiting manager Amy O’Brien offered general advice. Some people, O’Brien said, take out loans and get a college degree only to find there aren’t job openings in that field.

Cofer repeated later the career advice O’Brien offered that stood: Make sure it’s something you love to do.

Sanders was pleased with the inaugural Career Expo and could envision the event outgrowing the mall.

“I don’t see this regressing,” he said.