The second of the five scheduled 2019 Fairfax County Teen Job Fairs was held on Saturday, March 23, back where it all started — at West Springfield High School - when Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity and Pat Malone of Alexandria came up with the idea to bring young job seekers and employers together in one place at one time.
This edition of the fair was co-hosted by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Fairfax County Government, FC Public Schools and the Connection Newspapers sponsor all of the events.
Herrity is a graduate of West Springfield, and these days he calls the West Springfield Government Center, less than half-mile from the school, one of his official homes. West Springfield was the launchpad for the teen job fair program that only increases in size and popularity since its inception in 2015.
“The fair started as an event at one school, once a year,” said Herrity from his greeter’s post in the high school’s hallway, just outside the cafeteria. “I couldn’t be more pleased at how it’s grown. This gives the kids an opportunity to job search in a safe, relaxed, environment among their peers.”
THAT SAFETY FACTOR, and the ability for the kids to seek jobs without “wandering door to door” is a big part of the job fairs’ success, says Susan Jones, who has been a volunteer for the events from the very beginning.
“For many of the youngsters, they are looking for that first job,” Jones added. “This event makes sense. The employers here are looking to hire, they have experience with employees of this age group, and the parents can be present to keep an eye on things and guide them if needed.”
With the addition of workshops like “The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing,” “Networking,” and “Resume Writing,” to the job fairs, the youngsters also get some practical advice on enhancing their chances in their job search.
Jared Johnson, 17, who attends Hayfield Secondary School, took in the “Do’s and Don’ts” session. He’s got an eye on a future in biomedical engineering, but hasn’t held a paying job to date and wanted to see “what was out there” and definitely felt he needed some tips from real world experts, like session facilitator Monica Jackson. The 2014 Lady Fairfax honoree, Jackson has experience in several industries. Today, she uses her Early Childhood Development degree as the owner of Jackson Child Care in Springfield and as chair of the Fairfax County Child Care Advisory Council.
So, what did Jared learn from the hour-long workshop? “Be prepared. Practice. This will help you with your confidence.”
Developing and projecting confidence was a theme in the session, as were the critical elements of research and practice.
“Treat the interview like an important exam,” advised Jackson. “Know about the job and think beforehand about ways you are the best for the position.”
Meanwhile, back in the cafeteria, hundreds of youth – and quite a few parents – were making the rounds, checking out summer jobs, internships, year-round part-time positions, and even volunteer opportunities.
Large-scale employers, one-offs, summer camps, government departments and agencies and nonprofits alike had representatives on hand to interact with the jobseekers, and in some cases, accept applications and even hire on the spot.
Wegmans and Greenspring senior living facility are just two of the larger organizations that have hired significant numbers from the talented youth pool. More than forty vendors registered to set up shop with a recruiting station at the fair.
“That’s one of the things I like about this event,” said Stephen Kohlberg, a 16-year-old from Falls Church. “There are so many different kinds of jobs in so many kinds of businesses. I didn’t know about a lot of them and here you can talk to people about them, not just read about it on the internet.”
That variety, and the large attendance, appealed to Sunil Nabesan, as well, who had brought his son Sujay Sunil to the fair.
“I want him to see what’s out there,” he said,” but also to get an understanding of how many others are out there looking for those same jobs.” By attending the workshops, the interested father also thinks this is a good way for his Justice High School son to learn from others’ mistakes and how to avoid them in his own job searches.
Some of the jobs just looked like fun. One attraction for employment with NV Pools is the ability to work with your friends, pitched the company’s director of personnel, John Donovan.
Donovan, also a West Springfield graduate, started with the lifeguard-providing company when he was just fifteen.
“It turned into a career,” but with his years of experience with NV, Donovan makes a credible recruiter for applicants like Megan Marhanka, who stopped by to check things out with her mom, Beth. Megan has worked with Greenspring before and enjoyed the experience. Now she wants to explore other opportunities, like NV Pools,
“I’m also looking at the Fire and Rescue and EMT possibilities,” she said.
Jessica Lopez’s soon-to-open Code Ninjas franchise for game-based coding education in Burke, was another booth attracting a lot of attention – from young and not-so-young.
“We will need people for our summer camps, but also a few for year-round work,” said Lopez, and they are willing to train people with the aptitude for the work “who are willing to work patiently with kids aged 7-14, teaching, but also mentoring and making the experience fun. I bet our employees will be having just as much fun.”
Vishal Green from Irving Middle School, Ben McGarry from West Springfield and Amshala Bharathan from Herndon High School all looked interested in the coding job prospect.
While the emphasis is mostly on first-time and part-time jobs, some of the employers, like PAE are offering entry-level positions that can turn into long-term careers, or springboards for advancement at PAE or other companies.
“We train for intelligence community security monitoring,” said recruiter Kamiar Janneskari. “We handle the process for our hires to get their security clearance – something that will benefit them greatly, especially in today’s job market, and certainly in this region.”
IF YOU MISSED this chance to job search and learn ways to stand out from the crowd, there are still a few more teen job fair opportunities to get in on the action in other parts of the county, since “we all work together for our kids,” says Herrity. “We are one community.”
Interested students – and employers – can go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/springfield/teenjobfairs for more information and to register. The other fairs will be held at Chantilly High School on April 5, co-sponsored by Supervisor Kathy Smith, April 6 at South County High School, co-sponsored by Supervisor Dan Storck, and Mount Vernon High School on April 27, also co-sponsored by Storck.
Upcoming Teen Job Fairs
2019 Fairfax County Teen Job Fairs and Resume Building Workshops.
First jobs are important and these events help connect teens and employers face to face and prepare our youth for the workforce.
These events will focus on student job seekers (approximately ages 16 to 18) looking for full time employment, after-school employment, seasonal positions, internship opportunities, or volunteer experiences. It is open to all teens in Fairfax County looking for employment or wanting tips to build their resume. Volunteer opportunities and resume building workshops will be available for younger students looking to begin to build their resume.
Teens and employers should visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/springfield/teenjobfairs for registration and more information.
Friday, April 5
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Chantilly High School
Co-sponsored by Supervisor Kathy Smith, Chantilly HS STEM Academy, Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Intellectual Point
Saturday, April 6
10 a.m to 12 Noon
South County High School
Co-sponsored by Supervisor Dan Storck, South Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, South County Federation, and South County High School
Saturday, April 27
10 a.m. – 12 Noon
Mount Vernon High School
Co-sponsored by Supervisor Dan Storck, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, and Mount Vernon High School