Agawam High students explore work world at annual Expo
May 4, 2011
Sophomore Conner Wier looks over some of the precision manufactured parts at the display by G & L Tool Corp. during Agawam High School's Defining the Goals Expo 2011 on April 28. At left, is G & L owner Dave Smith.
Reminder Publications photo by Debbie Gardner
By Debbie Gardner
AGAWAM It was the chance to get a heads-up on local employment options, a peek at the advantages of joining two science-based school clubs and a crash course in job hunting.
Agawam High School's third annual Defining Goals Expo packed a lot of learning into a two-hour mini trade show and seminar for 150 science students in grades nine through 12.
"I actually learned of OMG [Olympic Manufacturing Group Roofing Products of Agawam]. I never knew they existed," junior Vera Kaletina said as she toured the eight displays from local businesses and school clubs.
Sophomore Connor Wier used the expo time to check out some of the parts manufactured by G & L Tool Corporation of Suffield Street and chat casually with co-owner Dave Smith about engineering and how different pieces were manufactured.
That kind of interaction was just what Agawam High School Career Coordinator Debra Hunter hoped would happen.
"We want them to learn networking skills and understand more about the working world," Hunter said. "[This event] helps them build skills they don't get in the classroom."
During presentations by the exhibiting businesses, OMG Training Coordinator Maggie MacElhiney counseled students to demonstrate they were a "team player [with a] positive attitude" when they got out into the working world.
"Be punctual, show attention to detail and take pride in your work," she said, adding that these were the traits OMG looked for in its employees.
Larry Maier, owner of Peerless Precision Manufacturing of Westfield, told students not to stress too much about career choices at this point in their lives.
"At your age there are no wrong decisions," he said, adding that flexibility and an energetic approach to one's work are keys to success in today's job market, whether it's manufacturing or a corporate position.
If a job doesn't seem a good fit Maier told students not to be afraid to make a change.
"Nothing is life-ending," he said. "You can always go back to school."
Interviewing tips from Erin Weinman, staffing services manager for the Springfield office of United Personnel Services, included learning about a company before attending an interview, practicing answering interview questions with an adult, taking note of the type of job when dressing for an interview and leaving cell phones or in the car.
"If you're interviewing for a manufacturing job, don't wear open-toed shoes you won't be allowed out on the floor," Weinman said as an example. "Wear long pants, keep jewelry to a minimum and tie long hair back away from the face."
More career advice came from an unexpected source, the members of the school's Robotics Club. The club's CEO, senior Emily Roundg, told the students her work with the team had helped her to "decide what I want to do with my life." Sophomore Andrew Tang, talked about the life skills he's picked as the team's business manager. Assistant Marketing Officer Rachel Tryba outlined the public relations skills she'd picked up while fund-raising to help the team pay for the Rosie the robot's "very, very expensive" parts. Tom Ennis, assistant to the robotics team's director of engineering, said "Rosie has given me all the skills I need to get a job in engineering."
Robotics Club alumni Erik and Andrew Jensen, successful business owners who graduated a decade ago, shared their personal legacy of working with Rosie.
"Without this program I would not be where I am today," said Andrew, who owns his own entertainment promotions company, J X2 Productions. "It taught us more than robotics. It taught us the entire business model and how to work as a team."
Presentations by the school's Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) club, including an update on the status of two solar panels recently donated to the school and the club's work with salmon restocking, closed the seminar.