This year marks the 6th annual O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, and Scott Air Force Base STEAM Advisory Group Eighth Grade Career Exploration Fair. It was held on April 28th at the Regency Conference Center.
It is really quite a sight to go into the conference center during this event. Throughout the day, 620+ eighth graders from across O’Fallon-Shiloh public and private schools attend the fair. Each student spends about 1.5 hours at the fair talking with role models from over 70 careers. Both the students and the role models are fully engaged so it’s quite noisy!
This fair grew out of an idea from the Chamber’s Education Committee. This committee, made up of school superintendents from across O’Fallon-Shiloh, wanted to find a way to expose students to a wide-variety of possible career paths. Why eighth graders? They are given an interest survey which measures not only interest, but ability and aptitude as well. The timing of the fair is perfect as it occurs after eighth graders have taken the survey and selected their ninth grade school schedule. If a student has a real “change of heart,” they can work with counselors after the fair to modify their schedule.
New to our area, District 90 Superintendent, Carrie Hruby, was very impressed with the career fair. “Mentors from a wide variety of careers gave students personal attention and answered their individual questions. The eighth grade students were professional in their appearance and interactions with the mentors. It was a terrific opportunity for eighth graders to make decisions about future career choices.”
There is some preparation built into the eighth grade curriculum with follow-on work built into the ninth grade curriculum. The 70+ role models give up a full day of work to come out to the fair and speak with the students about their professions. Chamber Executive Director Debbie Arell-Martinez believes that’s because local businesses know these students will be part of the workforce in a few short years and want to give the students every opportunity to find out about as many opportunities as they can before they have to make lifelong decisions.
Shiloh School District 85 Superintendent, Dale Sauer, believes, “What has been created through the partnerships and collaboration of many, led by our Chamber of Commerce and Junior Achievement, is a remarkable opportunity for our students entering into their first year of high school. The chance to interact with over 70 professionals in various occupations is not available through any other venue. Shiloh students and staff are grateful.”
Dave Hopkins, First Bank, is the Chairman of the Chamber’s Education Committee. Dave feels it’s equally as important to expose students to careers they are interested in as well as careers they’ve never considered.
This fair has allowed the area educators to work closely with the business community as well as with Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement has been instrumental in sustaining this event. Carol Bouche, Junior Achievement, says, “So many of the business role models commented on how they wished they would have had this opportunity in school. This event has become a tradition for so many involved and I look forward to many more successful years.”
Chamber Director Debbie Arell-Martinez tells us, “This career fair wouldn’t happen without the partnership between the business community and the local schools. Together we really can make a difference.”
Many thanks to this year’s sponsors: Scott Air Force Base STEAM Advisory Group, Junior Achievement, First Baptist Academy, LF & Son Construction, Schaefer Autobody Centers, TheBANK of Edwardsville, American Eagle Credit Union, Olson Orthodontics, Adventures in Cuisine, Right from the Start Pediatrics, State Farm – Elisa Hager, Bella Milano, and the Hilton Garden Inn/Regency Conference Center.