New job fair educates students

In response to the changing economic market, the annual education majors job fair was switched for a new, conference-style event to provide more interactive experience.

The Networking, Professionalism, & Recruitment in Education Conference was hosted March 6 in Westlake Hall for all education majors hoping to sharpen their post-graduation skills. The event, co-hosted by the Smith Career Center and the Department of Teacher Education, offered 68 students a variety of new professional sessions to explore, with the help of 22 employers and alumni.

“It’s getting harder and harder to get employers to come for a job fair, so we decided to offer something to our students that didn’t require as many employers,” said Susie Stear, advising coordinator for the education department.

As opposed to traditional job fairs, where students talk to employers for a few minutes, this fair hosted interactive sessions, including a panel made up of professionals, a round table of discussion leaders and mock interviews directed by area school administrators.

The panel, which discussed leveraging education degrees, was consisted of directors from a variety of organizations, including Junior Achievement USA, State Farm Insurance and the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

“The panel discussion was to help students understand there are more options besides a traditional classroom setting,” said Jayshree Panchel-McKechnie, career advisor to education and health sciences.

Stear said she was especially pleased with the interaction during the panel discussion.

“I think the panelists gave our students some excellent tips and I felt that the students were actively involved and took away a lot of good, useful information” she said.

Both Panchel-McKechnie and Stear said they thought the conference-style event was successful, but they are continuing to evaluate holding a comparable event in the future.

“My guess is that we will follow a similar format but change the focus of the panel discussion and bring in more and different people to lead the round table discussions,” Stear said.

Senior elementary education major Kim Parpus said the round table discussions with area principals and administrators were beneficial.

“I can honestly say each one provided me with some sort of insight or tip that I hope will benefit me as I start interviewing for jobs,” she said. “I would encourage other education majors to attend in the future.”

Other students said the mock interviews were the most helpful.

“The principal I interviewed with gave me great feedback with constructive criticism,” said senior elementary education major Brianna Turek. “It will definitely make a difference in the way I go into my first interview.”

Panchel-McKechnie said education students should take advantage of any job preparation opportunity.

“We want to prepare students, because the market for education is tough and competitive right now,” she said. “We want to make sure our students have an edge.”

Stear said she agreed.

“Back in my day, no one helped to prepare us for the ‘real world’ and we were on our own when it came to job hunting,” she said. “Our students have so many [preparation] opportunities, and those who take advantage are the ones who will come out on top.”