A Virgin Valley High School student discusses career opportunities after graduation with a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter at the high school job fair held Dec. 5. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

For the third time, Shelly Stoiber and her colleagues put together a career fair at Virgin Valley High School, hoping to acquaint students with life opportunities after graduation. But that isn’t where the benefit ends. With the unemployment rate dropping, it is now the high school students who can be “in the driver’s seat” in the job market. Businesses need workers. They need to find workers who can hire on and learn the ropes.

Bright and early Dec. 5, over 25 employers, college and tech schools, government entities and military service recruiters crowded into the Virgin Valley High School gym, anxious to meet the young people who are their potential employees or enrollees.

Barbara Ellestad and I, of Mesquite Local News, were not looking for a fulltime employee. We were hoping to make contact with a few students who might want to report on the “unreported” side of VVHS: the activities and classes that seldom make headlines but are an important part of the community.

Cosmopolitan Dental office employees were on hand to provide information about careers for high school students at the job fair held Dec. 5. More than 25 employers, college and tech schools, government entities and military service recruiters attended the job fair. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

It was obvious that most students honed in on flashy options like the Mesquite Fire and Rescue table, the military services, dental hygiene training and cosmetology options. A few of us were smiling and waiting for the kids to wander within eyeshot so we could entice them to our table with Tootsie Rolls and other come-ons that dental experts would never stoop to while we sold our profession to them as a lifelong dream.

I’m not sure what other ploys some of the businesses used, but our most successful was, “Do you want to see your name on the front page of the Mesquite Local News?” Actually that works, since most folks like personal recognition. And the offer of a potential front page photo was almost a dream come true! Barb and I wanted to start those journalistic wheels turning.

Unlike the students, most of the adults in the room had a clear picture of their objective at the career fair. They were there to persuade a few of these upcoming kids to align with them in the work force, higher education, or in service to our country. It was natural to wonder how this career fair was working out for them. Would they feel it was a useful effort, and would they be back next year to participate in the 2019 career fair?

Unanimously, the adults working their information tables saw the fair as successful, a great way to get their word out to students, and actually recruit young workers.

Chad Abbott of Iceberg Air Conditioning says he needs to find a new employee because his own son is going off to school and can no long work summers in the family business. He offers on-the-job training for high school grads; a direct path to employment without advanced training. His HVAC work does require educational updates, so he often goes to classes twice a year to keep up with new products. The prospect of lifelong learning and a good paycheck make that job path attractive.

Wendy Hollingsworth of Nevada State Bank told a similar story. NSB has a branch office in Mesquite where she is the manager. She is a vice president of NSB, having started as a teller at age 19, and working her way to branch manager at age 23. The bank pays for classes for those qualified young people who go to work with NSB. Wendy is a testament to what heights a person can reach when they stick with a job and climb the ladder of success. There are many young students who might find their niche in a bank or financial institution. Wendy attends career fairs so she can find the best of the best who seek that work.

Spencer Lewis of Mesquite Fire and Rescue often hears praises and thanks from those in the community who have benefited from MFR’s service. He wants to share that experience with young people who are looking for a gratifying job. He was specifically hoping to recruit 16 to 18 year olds for the MFR Explorer program where kids learn the skills and responsibilities of EMT and fire personnel. Mesquite constantly recruits individuals because there is a certain amount of turnover in a small town. Lewis is confident that the Explorer program helps build loyalty to our town and pays off in worker longevity. He loves working the career fair and meeting enthusiastic high school kids.

Not many people can boast of representing an area business that is employee-owned and offers minimum pay of $13 an hour. Litehouse food products, based in Hurricane Utah, just up the road from Mesquite does just that. Litehouse offers flexible job hours, exciting product lines, and a variety of job openings at their plant where they employ 300 workers. They love to find young people who are a good fit for the company and high school career fairs are an important activity for the company.

Dan Adams, a recruiter for University of Nevada Reno, offers a great benefit to potential future medical students. UNR has a Bachelors-Med School combined acceptance program that guarantees undergrads a spot in the UNR Med School if they maintain their grades during their undergrad years. No agonizing about shopping for another school that might accept you after you have slugged through your B.A. Dan loves coming to high schools to find the next M.D. for UNR Med School.

Thanks to Shelly Stoiber, Kathy Roloff and Brandy Jenkins at Mesquite Works, along with VVHS and its volunteer mentors, Darlene Nelson and Theresa Ofori, the college and career fair pulled in excited students from VVHS and Beaver Dam high school to learn more about a multitude of career opportunities. It was gratifying to see the spark of interest in young people who were willing to listen to the job possibilities available in our town and surrounding area. The energy that filled the VVHS gym can carry through to good jobs, good careers, and good lives.