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Students seek opportunities at annual Mitchell Tech job fair

Tim Cossette, with Davisco Foods International, left, visits with Mitchell Technical Institute student Brian Menzel Wednesday at the annual job fair. The event, in its 15th year, was moved to the MTI Technology Center for the first time. Representatives from 32 companies were on site to answer questions, interview and hire MTI students. (Laura Wehde/Republic Photo)2 / 2

Opportunity was in the air.

Stan Hoefs could feel it as he milled about the job fair Wednesday at Mitchell Technical Institute. In his sharp green button-down and coordinating tie, the 27-year-old student stood out among the hundreds of fellow jobseekers. As Hoefs admitted, it was an entirely different world than the one he knew working in manufacturing in Yankton after high school.

The chance to make job contacts and network drew 32 employers from across the tri-state area and country, eager to meet job candidates at MTI.

Hoefs, who graduates in May from the school's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition program, attended the job fair hoping to make contacts and an impression on potential employers. Like many of his peers, Hoefs was grabbing as many business cards and brochures as he could carry.

"This at least gets it in their minds that we're interested in their company, see what they have to offer," Hoefs said. "I'm meeting the guys I was looking at before, saying, 'I wish I had their job' -- I'm almost going to be that guy now."

The fair gave students a chance for one-on-one time with employers, to get a feel for what companies in their fields are looking for, and determine what employers would be good fits for them.

"It's kind-of a two-way street," said Julie Brookbank, director of marketing for MTI. "It's a chance for the employer, obviously, to gather some information about the candidate, but it's also a chance for the student to learn about the company and find out if it's a good fit for them."

With so many of MTI's medical and ag students fulfilling internships elsewhere, this spring's fair featured primarily utility, electrical, and construction companies, said Janet Greenway, Career Services Coordinator.

More than 30 employers brought booths, representatives and materials, such as brochures and merchandising items. Freebies included pens and pencils, key chains and koozies, chocolates and candy -- even novelties such as yo-yo's and stress balls.

"If nothing else, it gives them a chance to approach the employer, introduce themselves, talk about themselves and the skills that they have," Greenway said.

It was the technology center's first year to host the fair, which has been held at MTI's main campus in previous years. Many of the employers are familiar to MTI students. Some of the companies have spoken at the school or invited students to tour their facilities.

Golden West recruiter Kathy Swan has attended several MTI job fairs. She said the flow of résumés and applications has been on the rise in the past few months, undoubtedly due to the economy.

"I'm excited," Swan said. "You wish you had jobs to put all these people in. It was sad when you had a position open and you couldn't get any applicants. So we're in a good position."

Several students admitted to doing their homework by browsing a list of employers posted online prior to the fair. They were then able to match their majors to the employers' specialties and needs and narrow down their lists of booths to stop at Wednesday.

Students concentrated on securing job leads and prospects, and some even set up interviews.

From her prime position passing out information at the entrance of the fair, financial aid assistant Carmen Neugebauer noticed several students chatting excitedly about having landed jobs that very afternoon.

"This is great to see," Brookbank said, gesturing to the crowd. "This is what we do. We prepare students to go out and get good jobs. Hopefully, today is a day when we fulfill that."