More than 1,300 students from every middle school in Napa County came together at the Napa Valley Expo Thursday to be inspired by 37 local businesses on the variety of occupations available to them for future careers.
The event was highly interactive: every organization’s booth had some activity for students to engage in — from welding to life support to creating special concoctions to drink.
The first countywide, interactive career fair: “Inspire Napa: Dreams Start Now!” was hosted by the Napa County Office of Education in partnership with NapaLearns, Napa Valley Unified School District, St. Helena Unified and Calistoga Joint Unified, the American Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Travis Credit Union and the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay.
In advance, all of the students took the Holland career assessment test and businesses were assigned Holland Codes based on the type of work they perform. This tool measures interest levels in occupational areas to help the students understand which jobs would suit their interests, talents, and current skills.
“Many of you might remember attending career fairs when you were in school,” said Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent of schools. “Like some students, you may have spent the day wandering around with a group of friends and stopping at various tables with little direction.
“Inspire Napa was different,” said Nemko, because students had the opportunity to pre-select career areas that matched their personalities and interests.”
“This is an amazing event,” said Ted Ward, assistant principal at Redwood Middle School. “It’s important because for kids in middle school, college and careers can feel so far away. Having many hands-on activities for them to participate in while they’re in the 8th grade and getting ready to go into high school, where there’s so many different programs and career paths, is an incredible opportunity.”
“This career day is great because many kids think college is the only avenue after high school,” said Carston Tate, teacher of science and cooking at American Canyon Middle School.
Career participants included resorts, healthcare providers, public services, and wineries. Participants included Embassy Suites Napa, Auberge Resorts, OLE Health, Kaiser Permanente, Starbucks, E. & J. Gallo, Bank of Stockton, Napa Valley College, the Napa Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, and Travis Credit Union.
Whitney Diver McEvoy, president and CEO of Yountville Chamber of Commerce, said it was important to expose youth “to more things than just sports or social influence, and that they understand that they can make a great living by working in the hospitality world or being a firefighter. “
Keith Burhorn, front office manager at the Embassy Suites Napa, noted the Napa labor market is tight right now and the hospitality industry is having a tough time finding employees.
“I came here today to plant a seed with some of these kids to let them know that there are plenty of job opportunities right here and now in Napa. When they’re looking to get a job down the road, I hope they remember this and come join us,” Burhorn said.