Briana Carlson is a junior at Lawrence Central High School. She is a manager on the football, basketball and combined track and field teams and wants to attend Indiana University to study medicine.
Ashley Mixquitl is a senior at Lawrence North High School. She plays lacrosse for the Wildcats and is interested in working a couple of jobs after graduating to save some money before going to college.
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township is offering a career fair to help students like Carlson and Mixtquitl navigate career paths as they decide when, or if, to attend college.
The district’s event, called the Next Level Career Fair, will be held virtually April 21.
“We’ve held little career fairs in the past at each individual campus, but we felt like COVID-19 created an impetus for a bigger event and more prominent event,” said Kris McAloon, MSDLT assistant director for workforce readiness. “You think of physically being in schools or around guidance offices, there’s typically a bulletin board with jobs on it, or there’s the off-the-cuff conversations with counselors or teachers that lead to networking opportunities that can help kids get the jobs that lead to meaningful employment. Those weren’t possible this year, so we needed to innovate.”
Through the career fair, MSDLT aims to connect students with prospective jobs by gathering information from employers about opportunities and what they are seeking in employees and collecting detailed information about what students are seeking in a job, as well.
“We’re trying to (end) that narrative that there is one pathway to success, that you graduate from high school, you go to college, you get a job because you went to college and you did well, then you do well the entire way, and if you do anything else, then you are a failure,” McAloon said. “We’re trying to break down that narrative.
“We’re matching needs with needs.”
And those needs vary. One student near the top of her class, for example, wants to gain actual work experience because she has not had a summer job. Some students not planning to attend college are looking for full-time work in a trade. Others, like Carlson, simply want the opportunity to build connections.
“Something that really drew me to it was being able to outreach to a bunch of different employers,” Carlson said. “I’m a person who believes that having connections in many different places is always really good to have under your belt.”
Connections and opportunities were part of the motivation for McAloon, too. Through surveys, MSDLT learned that many employers view the lack of ethnic diversity as a hindrance to growth. The school district believes its students offer a solution to that problem because Lawrence North and Lawrence Central are diverse high school. For students, the limitation was figuring out what type of employment is available.
“The first thing that went through my mind was to see the different types of opportunities for jobs available,” Mixquitl said.
McAloon sees the Next Level Job Fair as bridging the divide and potentially solving both problems by putting students in front of employers and employers in front of students.
“Our goal is to just get kids jobs,” McAloon said. “This being our first year, we don’t want to overpromise and under deliver. But if we can get one kid a job, this will be a success.”
What is “meaningful employment?”
The Next Level Career Fair is designed to connect students to meaningful employment. MSDLT defines meaningful employment as a job that provides:
- Career Pathways – Employment that allows the employee to test out a field or profession.
- Networking Opportunities – Employment that provides the employee exposure to future valuable connections within an industry or field.
- Liveable Wages – Employment with earnings that provide self-sufficiency now or in the near future.
- On-the-Job Training – Employment that provides on-the-job training that has market value.