ONTARIO — High school students had the opportunity to practice CPR, bricklaying and their interview skills all in Fairhaven Hall Thursday.
About 700 students from 12 area schools visited the first in-person Junior Achievement “Inspire to Hire” event with more than 50 local companies.
Holly Dawson, Junior Achievement (JA) development officer for the North Central Ohio western district, said the event took about nine months to plan.
JA launched a virtual Inspire to Hire program in 2020, which can still be accessed online for 7th- through 12th-grade students.
“Bringing the event in-person for the first year since we originally sat down with these ideas and thoughts has just been remarkable,” Dawson said. “To see the students participating with businesses and engaging in activities is a great experience.”
Dawson said schools from Richland, Ashland, Crawford, Morrow and Wyandot counties came to the Richland County Fairgrounds for the “Inspire to Hire” event.
JA invited representatives from armed forces, trades, colleges, security and food service businesses to advertise opportunities to the junior and senior students.
“We wanted all our career clusters to be represented,” Dawson said. “Our goal is to keep students in Ohio, and how we do that is simply expose them to the career opportunities that are here locally.”
The event sponsor for “Inspire to Hire” was FirstEnergy and the local presenting sponsor was Charles River Laboratories.
Faith Buckley, talent acquisition specialist for Charles River Laboratories, said her team made booth activities interactive and offered a “chill station” for students with couches and phone chargers.
Activities included blood draw practice stations on stuffed animals, and a microscope viewing station to see how pharmaceuticals affect blood cells.
“We’re one of the top pharmaceutical companies, we produce about 85% of the drugs approved by the FDA,” Buckley said. “We are a global company, but we have locations in Ashland, Cleveland and Spencerville, Ohio.”
Buckley said Charles River offers internship opportunities ranging from accounting to medicine practice and animal care on jobs.criver.com.
Christine Gfrer, marketing manager for Warren Rupp, said the pump manufacturing activity her team brought helped draw interested students to their booth.
“We knew we wanted to do something hands-on because, with students, that's the way to get their attention,” she said. “And it’s a little bit noisy, so that draws them in.”
Matt McClester, Bricklayers Local 40 union representative, said he was happy to share his skills with high school students in a unique trade.
“I tell young people to take all the jobs you’re offered because you never know when you might find one you like,” McClester said. “A guy I knew said they needed help on a mason crew and I needed a job, and then I fell in love with it.”
McClester brought masonry trowels, mortar paste and a load of small bricks so students could practice building a small brick wall.
“It gives them an opportunity to actually do the work and have a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “It’s real mortar, real brick, real trowels — it’s what they would use on the job every day.”
Junior Achievement had a “Pitch Perfect” game for students to practice their interview skills, which the Spherion Mid Ohio team ran at their booth.
Jessica Hiser, Spherion's director of marketing and advertising, said she always tells students soft skills and good first impressions are important in any job.
“Getting them thinking at a young age about the way that they carry themselves and the choices that they make is really important,” Hiser said. “You already have the skills that will make you successful in your job, you just need to improve them.”
Spherion will also attend the Wayne County “Inspire to Hire” fair on March 8.
“It’s been an awesome event, and Junior Achievement made it really easy to participate in,” Hiser said. “I think how big the event is helps a lot, because all these students from different schools help set the tone and the energy for them to be receptive.”