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Career Path Fair expands its reach to more students

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The Career Path Fair exposed about 650 students to more than 40 businesses in the area at the March 14 event on UNG's Gainesville Campus.

Based on overwhelmingly positive feedback, the University of North Georgia (UNG) again partnered with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce to host of the second annual Career Path Fair on March 14 with a couple of changes.

First, the program expanded from one to two days. Second, Lanier Technical College joined the event and hosted the additional day. This collaborative initiative between the two institutions and the chamber allowed more students to attend.

"We had to limit the number of students to attend for the first year. This year we increased that number," said Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of UNG's Gainesville Campus. "UNG hosted middle schools from the south end of Hall County while Lanier Tech hosted the schools from the north end of the county. It was the same experience but on two different campuses."

The Chamber and its Vision 2030 committee developed the experience as a way to introduce seventh-graders to potential career opportunities in Gainesville and Hall County. The career path that students choose will help guide them to their appropriate plan of study in high school and beyond.

"By coming to a college campus, we want the students to start thinking about their future and consider some post-secondary education," Oates said.

He explained that seventh grade is when students consider the college prep path, technical career path or the workforce path.

"The choices they make in high school and afterward can help prepare them for their career," Oates said. "This program shows the seventh-graders how those choices connect."

Their decision to pursue a college education — whether it is a two-year, four-year, or graduate degree — will impact their future wages. Oates said studies have shown that any type of degree above a high school diploma increases a person's income, which has a ripple effect.

"That earning potential goes into lifestyle, socio-economic status and other options that become available to you to make a better life," he said.

To help students start to plan their future, the Career Path Fair exposed about 650 students to more than 40 businesses in the area at the March 14 event on UNG's Gainesville Campus. Another 650 students will be hosted at the Lanier Tech campus in April.

"The Career Path Fair gives these students an opportunity for a light-bulb moment so they can connect their future career with what inspires them," said Shelley Davis, vice president of existing industry with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

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Seventh-graders from south Hall County schools met with business leaders and trade professionals during the Career Path Fair. Some companies had hands-on activities for the students while others conducted question-and-answer sessions.

Bill Hall, CEO of Murray Plastics Inc. in Gainesville, Georgia, was among the business representatives who helped students learn more about career options at the fair. He said taking part in such events benefits everyone involved.

"It's a great opportunity for these seventh-graders to see what career fields are available in the area and really anywhere," Hall said. "It instills in the students the importance of some form of education after high school. It lets them know that you're going to get farther in life if you get some kind of specialized training."

Some companies had hands-on activities for the students while others conducted question-and-answer sessions with the students in the morning and afternoon. Based on the reaction from students and business leaders, the Career Path Fair was a success.

"I was delighted to see how engaged the students were with the speakers," Oates said. "It reinforces that what we are doing is making an impact. Our overall goal, though, is to have an educated workforce, which is what companies want."

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