South Hills career fair offers students, companies to learn about each other

bmilazzo@centredaily.comApril 10, 2014 

South Hills School of Business & Technology students got a unique perspective Thursday when they had the chance to speak with business representatives who also were South Hills graduates.

The annual spring career fair at Mountain View Country Club was a way for first-year students to gain experience communicating with local companies and expose second-year students to those businesses looking to hire.

About 450 students from the Altoona, Lewistown and State College campuses were in attendance along with representatives from more than 90 businesses from as far away as Hershey.

“It’s a positive experience for everyone, because it shows companies the pool of talent they have to choose from and allows students to be proactive in their job hunt,” said Joan Andrews, public relations coordinator. “In a way, the two are relatable. The employers sometimes know what to expect because they have similar South Hills experience.”

More than 85 percent of South Hills graduates find work immediately after graduating, said Ellen Spinelli, career services coordinator. She added that the school requires its students to complete an internship, where 30 to 40 percent of those students eventually are hired.

X-Pert Communications was just one business at the fair that was looking for interns in its sales, accounting and engineering departments.

James McKenna, vice president of professional servicesand a 2011 South Hills graduate, said internships can lead to part- or full-time positions.

“They’re kind of like monthlong interviews,” he said.

X-Pert Communications is a 100 percent veteran-owned, State College-based IT and telecommunications consulting firm. It opened in 2002.

Zack Sheffield, head graphic designer at Impressions of State College, was looking for something similar.

As a 2010 South Hills graduate, he saw the potential in the current students.

“You know that you’re probably going to get someone who already knows what they’re doing, so there is little training and a hard work ethic,” Sheffield said. “We look for those people who are self-motivated, have big ideas and are able to execute them.”

Casey Nellis, 22, will graduate in September with an associate’s degree in business administration and marketing management.

She spoke with more than a dozen businesses representatives to see where her skills might be used, and it helped her narrowher search .

“It’s allowed me to see all the options out there all in one room and talk with people who are looking for someone with drive and versatility,” Nellis said.

Nellis is looking for an internship that could lead to a job, which would give her as much experience as possible before going into the real world.

“I think it’s the kind of opportunity where I can learn from those who have been in the business for a long time and contribute fresh ideas,” she said. “I’m just marketing myself based on my strengths and assure them I’m team-oriented.”

Shortly after graduating in September, Paige McKinney, landed a job as an administrative assistant with SF&Co., with an office in State College.

Rebekah L. Dreese, human resource director at SF&Co., said McKinney came into the job with experience and a great first impression.

“She’s the person people hear first when they use our services. We call her ‘director of first impressions’,” Dreese said.

Dreese was not a graduate of South Hills, but has experience working with those who are.

“We’re looking for those students who can find their passion, and make that good first impression and who aren’t shy,” Dreese said. “We got lucky. We recruited and found Paige, and are being proactive at the fair. We hope to build good relationships.”

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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