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Career fair exposes students to some 40 employers looking to hire

Grandville — Jordan Swieringa is pretty confident about his secondary education plans and career interests, but he still learned a lot at this year’s senior career fair at Grandville High School. 

“I didn’t realize that (jobs) were so available, and that it wasn’t as difficult as it seems to (find a job),” the senior said. “A lot of these places have really good entry-level (positions).”

The career fair, put together by the GHS counseling department, offered students “career exploration and ideas for their future, training options, networking practice, more exposure to careers they wouldn’t have considered before, and also a deeper understanding of others’ career pathways,” Kent ISD Career Readiness consultant Erin Tarkington said. Tarkington helped high school staff coordinate the event and find employers to attend. 

‘Academic planning is great, and we need that, but putting kids in front of opportunities and seeing what career fields are out there, is huge.’

– Principal Adam Lantco

The event offered students the opportunity to meet and chat with more than 40 different employers in an informal setting in the VanderSlice Gym. Breakout sessions featured panel discussions on resume-building, career pathway options, interviewing and more. 

Patryk Biel of Alro Steel, left, talks to seniors Lauren Wilterdink and Madi Welsh at the career fair

GHS also welcomed three of its graduates as keynote speakers: Gary Troost, president of Valley Trucking; Julie Blitchok, president and CEO of Arbor Financial Credit Union; and Dr. Ken Johnson from Spectrum Health. Keynote talks focused on what employers are looking for in future employees, networking and employability skills. 

“I think the message we heard from our speakers today was that it’s not always a fast track to the destination place where you want to be, but the skills and experiences you can acquire along the way can help prepare you to be successful at that next level,” Principal Adam Lancto said. “Getting kids here to see the opportunities available to them is so important as we look at their next step. 

“Academic planning is great, and we need that, but putting kids in front of opportunities and seeing what career fields are out there, is huge.” 

Jordan, a member of the GHS RoboDawgs robotics team for the past four years, plans to attend Michigan State University with majors in engineering and business. At the career fair, he struck up an extended conversation with Andy Popescu, a stress engineer at Andromeda Systems Incorporated, an aviation and infrastructure sustainment company. The two discussed carbon fiber composites and other materials used in military aircraft repairs. 

Student Jordan Swieringa shakes hands with engineer Andy Popescu after a conversation about engineering careers and carbon fiber composites

“It’s really interesting to me because they work a lot with material science — how each carbon composite works or how different materials interact with each other, and why you need all the different parts to be in place when you design or make a change to the aircraft,” Jordan said. 

The fact that such a specific career track – and one that uses his precise robotics skills – could be an option was eye-opening, he said.

“I thought that it was something that was more or less exclusive to certain areas of the country,” Jordan said. “I didn’t know that there were more options throughout the nation, which is why I’m really glad that (Andromeda) was here and I’m really glad we had this career fair.” 

Popescu, who works remotely for Andromeda, beamed when he heard of Jordan’s interest. 

“(The students) are asking great questions, and I’m really glad that I could be here today,” Popescu said. “I really wanted to be able to give them (career) advice that I wish I had gotten in high school.”

Rosemary Salinas, left, human resources generalist for Network 180, talks to interested students at the career fair
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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is a reporter (covering Cedar Springs, Grandville, Lowell and Rockford), editor, copy editor and social media manager. She is an award-winning journalist who got her start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate, she later returned to Calvin to help manage its national writing festival. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press, Fox 17 and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio

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