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Students explore options at CVTC career fair

Electromechanical Maintenance Technician students from Chippewa Valley Technical College-River Falls talk with a representative from staffing agency PeopleReady at the CVTC Manufacturing Education Center in Eau Claire during the Fall Career Fair on Oct. 18. Students (from left to right): Brady Gaspord of New Richmond, Bob Juhnke of River Falls and Michael Koehler of Jordan, Minn. Photo courtesy of CVTC

EAU CLAIRE — Bob Juhnke of River Falls spent some time shopping his newly developed skills around the career fair Oct. 18 at the Manufacturing Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire.

Juhnke, 35, expects to complete the one-year electromechanical maintenance technician program at CVTC's River Falls campus in May, and it's not too soon to be considering what company he'd like to work for. Demand for maintenance technicians is so high Juhnke and other students from the program were drawing plenty of interest from potential employers at the career fair.

It continues to be a job-seeker's market at career fairs, as many businesses report shortages of good applicants in many fields. Approximately 140 employers were recruiting at the CVTC business, manufacturing, health and energy education centers. Many students anticipating a December graduation were looking for positions to start their careers. Others were taking a long-term view of the opportunities likely to be before them in the future.

"I had a good career in construction and truck driving, but I had a pretty severe surgery and I can't do that anymore," Juhnke said. Workforce Resource told him about the CVTC program and he's now preparing for his new career.

"I'm looking for maintenance work, but I'm not sure where yet," Juhnke said. "I have some friends in factories who said they thought they could help get me a job in maintenance. And Anderson Windows in Menomonie is looking for someone for an internship. They said they'd work around my schedule and pay me to learn."

Other students exploring the career fair were considering options for their future.

Joshua McIlquham of Chippewa Falls, who is in one of the STEM programs at CVTC, was gauging just how in demand his skills might be by talking with potential employers. He had both immediate and long-term goals.

"I'm looking at what companies have to offer," said McIlquham, who talked with recruiters at the Manufacturing Education Center. "Right now, I'm out of a job and would like to get a little money on the side to help pay my tuition."

After graduation, McIlquham has the option of marketing his skills immediately, or going on to obtain a bachelor's degree. "If I get a good job after graduation, I'll probably take it and get some experience before I go on," he said.

Over at the Business Education Center, human resources program students Brooke Carrigan and Shioban Smith, were looking for what's available for people in their field.

Carrigan, a 2015 Stanley-Boyd High School graduate, expects to graduate from CVTC in May. "So far, I really like the recruiting and selection part of HR," she said. "And I'd like to work in business, possibly a health care-related company."

Smith, a 2016 Bloomer High School graduate, has more time to consider options, planning her CVTC graduation for December 2018. "I'm just trying to get a feel for it," she said. "I'm thinking of working for a staffing agency after I graduate, but I haven't fully decided yet."

The employers' reason for attending the career fair were diverse as well. At the Manufacturing Education Center, industrial mechanics, machinists and welders were in high demand, as usual, with many employers having immediate openings. At the Business Education Center, employers were looking for everything from automotive mechanics and computer technicians to business managers and salespeople.

Among the companies was Festival Foods of La Crosse, which is in heavy recruitment mode to staff three former Gordy's grocery stores they recently acquired.

"We're looking for college students who are looking for part-time work while they are going to school. We have new stores opening Dec. 1," said shift manager Shane Motszko. He added, though, that the company usually hires from within for its leadership development program that can turn former college student workers into department managers.