Career Diversity Encouraged Through DPIE Supported Middle School Career Fairs

Michael Utsumi, Funding & Programs Coordinator
April 23, 2019

In a very conventional sense, career or job fairs are events in which employers, recruiters and schools distribute information to potential employees. It is a mutually beneficial opportunity for both job-seekers and employers in that the face-to-face engagement is as important as a written resume. While it would be expected in our technology rich Bay Area for these fairs to exist, these platforms are completely common at most universities. Further, the competition for incoming college freshmen increases every year, so these recruitment events are vital at the high school level. But, what about the eighth grade?

Following a model that was established years ago, the Dublin Partners in Education supports these half-day events that impact each and every eighth grader in the district. Driven by the respective counseling and administration teams, a block is established to provide these students with exposure to a vast array of professions. This year, the events occurred on March 27th at Fallon Middle School and was hosted at Wells Middle School on April 10th.

The objective was to allow the students to select among different “blocks” of careers which included professionals from technology, healthcare, retail and entertainment fields, among others. Clearly, some of these careers can be pursued upon high school graduation and others might require advanced college degrees. In order to be effective, the students need to be engaged and have the opportunity to ask questions. Equally, there is an immense amount of planning and coordination required for a successful event.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Wells Middle School counselors Tia Baker-Ta and Christie Yates to reflect upon their experience of hosting the Career Exploration Day. The day started with first thing in the morning when thye coordinated a breakfast for the presenters. The rotating sessions for 8th-grade students were conducted from periods 1-3. Subsequently, the speakers enjoyed a catered lunch from Lucille’s BBQ near the counseling office.

WMS Career Day

DPIE: Upon reflection, when did the basic planning of the Career Fair begin and can you describe the busy days prior to the event?

Baker-Ta/Yates: “We started planning for Career Day in November following our initial meeting with DPIE. We first worked with our administration and 8th grade teachers to establish a date to host our event. Once, we established the date of April 10th, we were able to determine more of the logistics of the day and finding guest speakers. The weeks leading up to the event were a bit chaotic. We had to develop student schedules and ensure we had enough teacher coverage. It was important to us that students had choice in the speakers they wanted to see. Mary Washington was instrumental in helping create a survey for students to select the speakers they wished to see and then, creating their student schedules. The days leading up event were a bit chaotic. We were extremely busy ensuring all the details were solidified. Even up until the morning of the event we were just hoping that everything came together okay.”

DPIE: The list of careers represented in the speakers was very diverse. Was this the mission of the counseling team or just the way that it turned out? Why was the diversity important?

Baker-Ta/Yates: “Diversity of speakers were especially important to us. There are so many career possibilities and we wanted to reflect that as best as we could. However, we did get really lucky in that many of the parents/guest speakers who volunteered were all really different. In getting the remaining few speakers we worked with our community liaison, Cindy Leung, who helped us secure a handful of speakers from the community.”

WMS Career Day

DPIE: Please share some of the feedback from the students and presenters.

Baker-Ta/Yates: “We received great feedback from the presenters. It seemed like they all had a great time speaking with the students. Many shared that the students asked some great questions. The students also enjoyed the event. It was great seeing them so excited and talking about the different career presentations they had seen with their peers.”

DPIE: It’s never too early to think about 2020. What modifications might you make next year? (target different careers, make sessions more interactive, etc.)

Baker-Ta/Yates: “We thought that the format was great. We probably wouldn't make too many changes as to format. Students definitely benefitted from the presentations that were more interactive or engaging. We had many presenters who did demos or interactive activities so that student could really get a feel for their career.”

WMS Career Day

We would like to thank the Counseling offices from Wells Middle School and Fallon Middle School for continuing this valuable experience for their eighth-grade students. As we have learned through research, it is often better to expose younger people to a wider variety of options – particularly when it comes to a potential career. For every doctor or engineer that we might produce, we require very competent professionals in other areas to ensure that our society functions - at every level.