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Career fair successful

By Staff, 03/15/19 9:55 AM

HOPE – More than 800 students got to mingle and talk with potential future employers at a career fair at Hempstead Hall Thursday.

The career fair was presented by the Southwest Arkansas Development Alliance, the Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative and the University of Arkansas Hopt-Texarkana. Juniors and seniors came from schools in Columbia, Hempstead, Howard, Little River, Miller, Nevada and Sevier counties. One school district, Lafayette County, was unable to attend due to illness.

The students visited 31 vendors, learning about jobs available and what they need to know in order to get a job with each company. Several company representatives pointed out a four-year degree isn’t needed for a lot of the jobs the company has and in some cases a person could get a job right out of high school. Others pointed out vocational certificates from two-year schools are needed for some positions – such as welding and electrical work.

Steve Harris, director of the Hempstead County Economic Development Commission, told the students this is a good time to be young as the unemployment rate in the area and state is low, which shows jobs, good paying jobs, are out there for those who look. He told the students there is a wide variety of employers on hand for them to talk to, but they need to take this opportunity seriously.

Morgan Thomas, with Georgia Pacific, said he understood it’s hard to buckle down and think about the future for young people, adding this career fair was an opportunity for them to have conversation with potential employers. The opportunities, he said, are endless and all the jobs out there aren’t technical, nor do they require college degrees.

Mark Heywood, also with GP, followed, telling the students about his rise through the ranks with GP, starting out on the ground floor and working his way to shipping superintendent. Several of the starting jobs, he told the students, start at $15 an hour.

Jimmy Ivers, with Domtar, talked about the products the plant makes at its Ashdown facility. He, too, said college isn’t for everyone, adding he’d initially planned to be a teacher/coach, but his science degree got him his first job with GP in Crossett where he worked his way up, later moving to the Ashdown plant where he’s the head of Human Resources. Domtar, he told the students, offers a chance to travel the country, visiting other plants.

Ivers also pointed out two-years degrees can be beneficial in the right field, pointing out a welder he knows who picks and chooses the jobs he takes and expects to make $125,000 this year.

Other speakers on the day included representatives from Tyson Foods, Firestone and the National Parks system.