ACE to highlight area opportunities for local students

FAIRMONT – There will be an invasion of sorts on Wednesday when almost 600 high school sophomores and 93 businesses converge for Area Career Exploration Day. Now in its sixth year, the event takes place in the Fairmont Junior/Senior High School gymnasium and provides students with information on employment opportunities in the south central region of Minnesota.

“It’s evolved a lot,” said Callie Austin of the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce. Austin has spearheaded the coordination of the industrious undertaking since its inception.

The number of businesses involved has declined due to mergers and closings, but “we’re still pretty full,” Austin said. Four vendor slots were intentionally left open this year, in the event of additional vendors.

“But next year, we won’t have any open slots,” Austin said.

Austin already has mailed guidebooks for the event to participating schools so students can take a career survey and select the top three that pique their individual interests. The guidebooks are filled with a multitude of information, including a description of job responsibilities, low to median wages, training or education required and job outlook.

Another part of the student’s packet is a color-coded map depicting the locations of individual businesses, with shared fields of interest, grouped together in six different career clusters.

“It’s always stayed the same format, but the content has changed,” Austin said. “We work with labor markets for the region, and we get all our information from the labor market analyst for the state of Minnesota. We never have outdated information.”

The goal of the event is to impress upon the students the employment opportunities available in the region.

“These careers are here. You can come back to the area,” Austin said.

The businesses hail from Martin, Faribault, Jackson, Emmet and Watonwan counties. The participating schools include Fairmont Area, North Union, Truman, Martin Luther, Granada-Huntley-East Chain, Martin County West, Blue Earth Area, St. James, Butterfield-Odin, Mountain Lake Area and the Southern Plains Alternative Learning Center.

There is no cost to the schools or the vendors to participate in the career fair. Funds for materials and expenses are provided by several major donors, collaborators and sponsors, Austin said.