“With COVID, kids just haven’t been able to explore a lot of career and job possibilities,” said Layn Welker, a TKHS virtual teacher. “The companies were happy to come and talk to students and maybe find workers. A lot of companies are hiring right now. They can’t find enough workers. But a lot of our high school students don’t know about the opportunities out there.”
Senior Natalie O’Riley said the event opened her eyes to more possibilities. “I have a job planned, but this really has me thinking. There’s a lot more out there than I knew,” she said.
Jenna Straub said she was intrigued after talking with representatives from the YMCA and the different types of jobs that exist there. “I just really never thought about working there before. I had no idea there were so many possibilities.”
Stacee English and Amanda Ekins with Viking Corp. said they were very impressed with the students and how they asked questions and were interested in learning more. “This is the first thing we’ve been able to be at in person. We haven’t been able to give the tours and kinds of things we normally do with students,” said English who encouraged students to sign up for a tour of their facility.
Sara Whisler with Flexfab said they’ve done some virtual events this year, but this was the first in-person fair. “Virtual is nice but it’s not the same. We definitely appreciate being here and being able to engage with the students.”
Bethany Kruger and Emily Bush, lead teachers at Education Station, said they ran out of applications not long after the fair started. “We need people and several students were interested. We learned we need to bring more applications next time,” said Kruger.
Student interest seemed to especially pique when company representatives talked about tuition-reimbursement programs or summer internships that could lead to a full-time job immediately after college. “Anyone that helps with college costs is always a bonus,” said Straub.
Students learned companies aren’t just offering tuition reimbursement, though. Many companies offer paid internships, flexible schedules, working remotely and the possibility of full or part-time work.
Kirk Mulder with the company called Hastings caught the attention of students as he extended a fiberglass pole several feet in the air and discussed its use within the utility industry. “The utility industry is one industry that hasn’t had to worry about layoffs or shut downs. It’s a good, steady job,” he said.
Joe Johnson, a paramedic/firefighter, said more students interested in the field are definitely needed. “We’re in desperate need of fire and EMS people,” said Johnson. “I’ve been talking to the students about the training they’ll need and a little about what it’s like to do this job.”
As much as companies appreciated being able to educate students about their employment options, students said they were equally thankful to learn about so many local opportunities.
“I’ve actually been curious about different jobs and having all these companies here gives me some ideas for the future,” said TKHS junior Eli Fliearman.
“I never knew there were so many companies around here. It’s nice to see all the options,” said Matthew Smith, another TKHS junior.
Payton Wilkinson said he learned a lot just from talking with company representatives. “I think this has given me some things to think about and maybe helped me narrow down my choices for the future.”
TK Board of Education President Kristen Cove helped Welker establish the event. “It’s really a win-win for everyone. The students learn about opportunities and the employers, who are desperately looking for workers, have been able to show students employment opportunities.”
Companies attending the TKHS Career Fair:
Middleville Tool and Die
Architect, Engineering and Construction Sector
Owen, Ames and Kimbel
Thornapple Fire and EMS
West Michigan Eye Care
Advent Physical Therapy
KCC Dental Hygienist Program
High Point Community Bank
Thornapple Valley Credit Union
Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Sector
Zook Farm Equipment
Public Safety Sector
Barry County Central Dispatch
Barry County Community Mental Health
Barry County Sheriff's Department
Barry County Corrections Department
Dewey’s I-CAR Auto Body
Grand Valley Automation
Education and Training Sector
YMCA of Barry County
Branches of the Armed Forces
Farmers Insurance Company