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Students Connect to Business and Industry at Expo


I’m supposed to wear what to an interview? I’m supposed to talk how? A resume and a business card to give out? Seriously?

Those thoughts might have once gone through the minds of Kent Career Tech Center students. But after learning the do’s and don’t’s of landing a career their minds were changed — and last week they got to practice those skills at the Kent Business and Industry Expo.

About 2,300 students from the Tech Center, Kent Transition Center, Kent Innovation High and MySchoo@Kent, plus other schools in the Kent ISD, attended the expo. They found 100 employers ready and willing to talk to them about how to land a job or summer internship in the career that interests them.

Shalini Kemmeter listens to a police officer give advice to students

“We really try to prep them well and let them know which businesses they might be interested in that will be here,” said Tech Center Principal John Kraus. “They learn it because we take the time to teach it.”

Students were not just getting business cards; they were handing out their own. And many dressed in suit coats or the uniform they wear at the Tech Center for the area they are studying.

“They told me to dress professionally, and you’ll have higher chances of getting interest from a company,” said James Tran, who is interested in an IT management job. “It shows you came prepared.”

The event started about10 years ago with roughly 40 companies, Kraus said.. He credits Denise Washington, the Tech Center work-based learning technician, for more than doubling that number.

“We’re grooming kids for jobs right out of high school,” Washington said, adding the event is not for exploring different careers, but for connecting students to businesses in the field they want to pursue.

Lydia Sprik wants to pursue architecture or veterinary medicine

‘We Need to Get Them Ready’

“I’m getting my name out there and meeting people,” said Shalini Kemmeter, a first-year Tech Center student, whose goal is to work for the FBI. She talked to representatives from the Kentwood, Wyoming and Kent County police departments. “They told me what I need to do to apply and gave me advice for pursuing the career,” she said.

Trooper Martin Miller of the Michigan State Police post in Rockford talked to students at the expo, sharing his own story as one valuable story for students. He graduated from college with a hotel, restaurant and tourism management degree. He decided that career wasn’t for him, even though he spent a lot of money getting it.

Next he became a car salesman. That wasn’t for him either. At 30 years old he became a police officer.

His college education helped, but he could have used some advice sooner, he said.

“KCTC opens their eyes,” Martin said. “We need to get them ready.”

For Andrew Harris, chief marketing officer and partner at ColorHub, a new digital printing business in Grand Rapids, told students his company has some of the most high-tech equipment in the nation and is ready to hire new employees.

“We’re trying to get our name out there,” Harris said. “We have some programs that would work well for a student interested in digital and computer jobs. Our industry is struggling to find workers that want to work with us. If we can get students excited, it means a lot.”

Employers have been impressed by the students’ skills at the expo, and students have found it empowering, Kraus said. “The event shows the business community what its students are like and the type of programming we offer.”

“We’re seeing businesses really getting quality employees,” Washington said. “This is somewhere to get their best talent.”

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Shalini Kemmeter, left, who is interested in criminal justice, and James Tran, who’s exploring IT, checked out potential employers

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.

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