Careers Expo offers options to Oakland youth

A BART representative talks about the opportunities and careers available at the company during the Oakland Youth Careers Expo on April 13. Photo by Marian Davidson.

A BART representative talks about the opportunities and careers available at the company during the Oakland Youth Careers Expo on April 13. Photo by Marian Davidson.

It’s never too early for students to start thinking about their futures. On Thursday, high schoolers were introduced to potential employers, careers and education options available in their home city at the Oakland Youth Careers Expo.

“This offers students the opportunity to engage up close and personal with industry professionals,” said Gilbert Pete Jr., the Oakland Unified School District’s workforce and economic development coordinator.

More than 80 representatives from local businesses and educational institutions manned exhibitor booths and talked with students at the event held at the Oakland Marriot City Center. But the expo was more than just a job fair—it was an “all-around resource fair,” Pete said. Students had the opportunity to interview for internships, have their resumes reviewed by employers, and learn about specific fields during breakout sessions.

“It brings education to life, which is what we’re trying to do,” Pete said.

For Skyline High School junior Andie Yepez, the career expo was an opportunity to try getting a foothold in her field of choice—health care. She spent the morning interviewing for a summer internship.

“I was a little nervous,” Yepez said, but she said she was prepared and felt the interview went well.

The expo not only introduced students to potential employers, it also gave local businesses a chance to showcase their services and meet their future workforce.

Luana España, a community affairs employee at the Port of Oakland, said she was excited to show students the variety of career paths available at the port. “[We’re] a large organization that employs a lot of different skills,” España said, explaining the port has options for those interested in law or engineering. “These jobs are open.”

A qualified, home-grown workforce is an important asset to local businesses, said Courtney Riley, who is program manager for the Oakland Chamber of Commerce’s Linked Learning Program. Linked Learning is a state-wide high school program that places students in internships for work-based learning. The Oakland Chamber of Commerce’s Linked Learning office works in conjunction with the city and school district to assist students.

Business leaders have been pleased with what they’ve seen from OUSD students, she said. “Once they get to work with students one-on-one, they’re amazed with what they can do,” Riley said, noting students’ technology and social media savvy are very attractive to employers. “The students and businesses are both learning from each other.”

Port of Oakland community investments manager Laura Arreola said she was impressed by the students she met at the expo. “I met several students who have come very prepared with resumes and prepared to talk about their qualifications,” Arreola said, adding the port is employing five high school interns this summer. “This job fair is a big opportunity for us.”

Building a relationship between students and employers is important, and the expo is just the first step for the school district, Pete said. The district is working to “develop a local pipeline” from school to local employment, he said, and there are plans to start this relationship with even younger students. “We’re building this back to middle school and elementary school,” Pete said.

The OUSD also currently has an Exploring College, Career and Community (ECCCO) Program, which places high school students in local internships, and recently the district started bringing industry professionals in to the classroom to talk with middle and elementary school students during career days.

“It’s all about building,” Pete said. “We want them to be informed first.”

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