BY OLIVIA COBISKEY
Nearly 200 teens explored the "real world" Friday, talking to local employers and touring Sauk Valley Community College's medical and manufacturing departments, at the schools' second annual high school job fair.
"We've almost double the number of students from last year," said Thomas Gospodarczyk, dean of institutional research and planning.
The school is the perfect place for students to explore possible career options, learn about the manufacturing and health care fields, and what education they will need to pursue those careers, Gospodarczyk said.
"Statistics show that roughly 60 percent of jobs will require education beyond high school, 15 to 20 percent require a (bachelor's degree) or better," he said. "Sauk offers a lot of opportunities to gain that training and education."
The students also learned the importance of communication in the work place.
Mary Segura, an employee with Wahl Clippers Corp., in Sterling, drove that lesson home when she taught the students some new vocabulary words.
"Poka yoke ... allows you to dummy-proof something to guarantee your success" and "Takt time" is when a company makes only enough product to fill its orders. The new language is part of a Japanese-inspired, lean manufacturing philosophy that helps companies produce products with the least amount of labor, equipment, materials and power - "so, you're working smarter, not harder," Segura said.
"Manufacturing sounds interesting. I didn't know anything about (lean manufacturing), so it was informative," Sam Swafford, 15, said after the lecture.
Still, the Dixon High School freshman has his heart set on a career in the medical field, as a massage therapist.
Another local manufacturer, Etnyre Products, of Oregon, wanted to see if the students knew what employers look for in a potential employee.
"If you were me and there were 100 applications for these 10 jobs, what would you be looking for?" asked Beth Shenberger, human resources administrator
"Dedication," answered Justin Habben, 17, a Sterling High School junior.
"Dedication, reliability," Shenberger agreed.
Then she asked the students how an employer could check if someone is reliable. Call past employers was one answer. But if they didn't have a resume?
"They can call your school, ask about your attendance, talk to your teachers," Shenberger said. "It may seem insignificant now, but your attendance is very important."
Milledgeville High School sophomore Andrea Herin, 16, wanted to know how many women worked at Etnyre, which manufactures large road construction equipment.
Although there is still a lower percentage of women working in the field, those who do work at Etnyre are welders, assemblers and test drivers, Shenberger said.
Milledgeville sophomore Taylor Kent, 15, enjoyed the fair. "I'm teetering between chiropractic and opthamology, so the information has been very helpful," Kent said as she moved over to the Sterling Rock Falls Clinic information booth.
How people present themselves, their tone of voice and how they shake hands tells a potential employer a great deal about their character, said Jill Adolph, director of nursing at the clinic.
The application also is very important. "If I can't read it ... " Adolph said.
What it basically come down to is, "they need to be able to communicate why they want the job," whether by their appearance, their hand shake or their resume, she said.
Adolph tried to give students an idea of what employers expect in an employee. Clinic employees, for example, are not allowed to have visible piercing or tattoos.
"It's about professionalism," Adolph said.
"There are a lot of good programs here," said Sterling senior Joe Nusbaum, 18.
For now, Nusbaum plans to work on his family's farm, but "I'm still looking." He was happy to find out Sauk had a course for people who want to earn a commercial driver's license.
For Sterling senior Julia Gomez, 17, the highlight of the fair was the tour of Sauk's medical field classrooms. "I got excited when I saw the classrooms," the future obstetrician said. "I'm going to come here someday."
Reach Olivia Cobiskey at (815) 284-2222 or (800) 798-4085, ext. 535.
Reach Olivia Cobiskey at (815) 625-3600 or (800) 798-4085, ext. 535.