Local News

Career fair exposes students to different fields

AVON PARK - One student wanted to know how to start a feral hog removal business while another was exploring a marine biology degree and needed information on university programs.

Even though Carla Sherwin was there Thursday as a Highlands Hammock State Park park specialist to talk about careers in state parks, land management or natural resources, she was more than happy to oblige.

Lake Placid attorney William Nelander tried to emphasize the importance of a clean record and how wannabe lawyers also should pursue a bachelor's degree in a field they can use, before going to law school.

According to what he's read online, several 2012 law graduates were unemployed. A bachelor's degree in a major such as business can open doors in related careers, while an engineering degree is not only useful on its own but can help law school graduates in a growing specialization such as cyber law, he said.

More than 600 high school and South Florida State College students got insights into professions they are considering or a glimpse into something they didn't know about at SFSC's annual career fair.

Highlands University Prep School students Cheyenne Spires and Jude Missall are still looking into prospective careers but Caitlin Conrad was won over by the SFSC cosmetology program, which hosted one of the many exhibitor booths, and stood out with its mannequins in various hair-dos.

Colleen Rafatti, director of SFSC's Career Development Center, said this year they had a bigger diversity of exhibitors, such as including more "hi-tech booths and engineering and Science Technology Engineering Math(STEM) courses."

Attending the career fair was a class requirement for some high school students, who came dressed up in ties and shirts, but appearances aside, it's become critical for high school students to choose a college major or a career path early on, Rafatti said.

"It is to make efficient use of financial aid, and we want to make sure they complete their degrees," she said.

In the Heartland area, careers in health sciences and elementary education remain strong, Rafatti said, but the transportation and logistics' fields are also sought after, she said, adding how surrounding counties have large distribution warehouses.

While the students were there for a serious purpose, some took time to have some fun and learn how to translate that into a career.

One of the much mobbed tables - you guessed right - had self-built computer towers where students were playing the video game Call of Duty.

SFSC's electronics' program department instructor John Byrd was showcasing some of the projects his students have done, such as the six-core computer processors with see-through plastic cases, and answering questions on the various courses the department offers - from biomedical equipment repair to computer repair.

Buzzing on and off was student Chris Robbins' mini-quad copter, aka a mini drone that can be used for aerial photography.

Robbins put the copter together from a kit he bought but the department has requested college funds to build its own drone - a one-meter-long hexacopter with six engines.

The electronics department offers a dozen fields of study in three areas, Byrd said, and as the economy improves, tech repair jobs are "coming back strong now."

Harry Howes, the Highlands County School District's management and informational systems' technical manager, was there to talk about careers in information systems.

Since MIS jobs have been around for a while, Howes did not get bombarded with questions about networking jobs, but got a few unrelated queries from students, who wanted to know among other things, if they filter materials on school computers.

His answer: Yes, he smiled.