CALLING ALL EMPLOYERS: Natchez’s take on a Career Fair begins Tuesday

Published 5:42 pm Monday, April 24, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Community leaders and workforce development partners are hosting a “reverse career fair” on Tuesday at the Natchez Convention Center, the first of its kind in the area.

It’s like a career fair, but high school students do the presenting while employers do the visiting, organizers said. Students arrive and set up their tables at 8:15 a.m. with resumes in hand, ready to dazzle potential employers.

Then from 9 a.m. until noon, employers attending the event will stop by their tables, giving the young scholars a chance to show them what they are made of.

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This event is sponsored by AccelerateMS, the City of Natchez, Adams County Board of Supervisors, Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, Natchez Inc. and Workforce Development partners.

“We’re expecting 60 students from our four participating high schools (Cathedral, Natchez High School, Adams County Christian School and Natchez Early College Academy) and we have 25 confirmed participating employers,” said Tuwanna Williams, Director of Workforce Development.

Those employers who haven’t already signed up will still be able to do so the morning of the event — “We’d be glad to have them there,” Williams said.

Students participated in a month of workshops, preparing them for this event with mock interviews and more.

“We started coordinating this in March and have been preparing the entire month of April,” Williams said. “We had a full schedule.”

During the preparations, she had the opportunity to meet the prospective workers firsthand.

“As we were getting them coordinated, every school has a different schedule,” she said. “We were meeting some at 8 a.m. in the morning and thinking there was no way that juniors and seniors would be engaged. As we got in front of them, it only took a few minutes to get them involved.”

When advertising the event to employers, the focus was placed on Mississippi’s top, in-demand industries, such as agriculture, manufacturing, CDL transportation, healthcare, and information technology jobs.

Williams said she was inspired by the concept of a reverse-career fair at a conference she attended last year, which allowed those with disabilities to show off their skillsets to employers.

She decided to put a spin on the idea and offer it to all high school juniors and seniors and “take the load off of employers.”

“They don’t have to set up a booth, pay a fee or bring all of these materials as they normally would,” she said. “As they’re walking around, they’ll have a chance to conduct soft interviews with about five of them so that every employer attending has the opportunity to visit with a student. If they like that student and would like to provide them with a more formal interview, you can take that student’s resume and place it in the folder we provide them with and sort through those later.”

Williams said the employers would also have the opportunity to participate in follow-up surveys since this particular type of career fair is the first of its kind in Natchez and the region.

“We don’t want to waste valuable human resources that we have in our area,” she said. “We hope they will find a job here and stay here.”