SMC career fair hit with students, employers

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

The second-annual Internship and Career Fair took place at Southwestern Michigan College Thursday. More than 60 different businesses and agencies participated in the fair, including representatives with the U.S. Secret Service. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

While the lessons they learn in the classroom are vital, the key to landing a job for graduates of Southwestern Michigan College isn’t found in a textbooks or lectures. It’s found through resume building, networking and interview skills.

Students with the area community college had a chance to put these skills to work Thursday as SMC hosted its second annual Internship and Career Fair. Both college attendees and members of the general public were invited to meet with the more than 60 representatives with area companies and agencies spread out across the Mathews Conference Center that morning.

The fair was started last year by the college in order to give graduating students a leg up before they hit the job market, said Stacy Horner, dean of school of business and advanced technology.

“No matter how good a job we do teaching, if our students don’t find jobs after they graduate we haven’t helped them,” Horner said. “That’s why this event is here.”

As part of the curriculum, SMC’s business instructors work with students to develop the skills they will need to land jobs after graduating, through activities like resume workshops and mock interviews, Horner said. The job fair gives students a chance to demonstrate what they have worked on with actual employers, and at the same time help secure themselves a future job or internship.

With employers ranging from banking institutions like 1st Source or Chemical to law enforcement agencies like the Michigan State Police or U.S. Secret Service, students across nearly every academic discipline could find an employer that could make use of their educational background, Horner said.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for people who are willing to take them,” Horner said.

Last year’s fair was a tremendous success, with many attendees managing to land jobs or internships, Horner said. Employers were similarly impressed: nearly all of the 40 participating organizations returned for this year’s fair, on top of 20 new businesses that registered for the event, the dean said.

Among the businesses participating in the fair this year was Dowagiac’s Judd Lumber company, which was seeking a number of potential employees to join its hardware center and make deliveries, said manager Keith McGrew.

“SMC has a nice contractor program for people interested in the building trades, so we would like to maybe get an intern through the fair,” he said.

With interest from potential employers continuing to grow, Horner imagines that the fair will grow even larger next year, encompassing both wings of the Mathews Center, she said.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “This event is a great opportunity for students.”

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