What better way to celebrate the success of students who have spent the past two semesters learning their trade than to connect them with hiring employers looking to make use of those skills? Washington County Community College [WCCC] did exactly that on April 11th with its first annual Sweet Success event.
The idea behind Sweet Success, which was a collaboration between JMG, the CareerCenter, Embark, Navigating Success, and TRiO – with an exceptional array of desserts provided by the Culinary Arts students of the St. Croix Regional Technical Center – was simple: pair employers with students, and add chocolate.
Dodie Emerson, Consultant with the CareerCenter, said this is the first time she’s been to an event which specifically unifies graduating students with hiring employers in the few years she’s been in her position. “We’re hoping this will be an annual event,” Emerson said. “It’s a win-win for everybody!”
Students signed up for 15-minute interview slots in advance of the event. “It’s kind of like a twist on speed dating – it’s speed interviewing,” said Nichole Sawyer, WCCC’s Dean of Business and Industry. “The students know beforehand that these are hiring employers.”
Sawyer identified another benefit of the event: enabling faculty members to connect with area employers and ensure their program is keeping fully relevant to that industry’s needs. “It’s important for our faculty to network with businesses to talk about their needs and future trends” While WCCC maintains robust advisory boards with local industry professionals on them, Sawyer explained, having an event such as Sweet Success is a way to do it over an informal “chocolate lunch.”
Nine employers came to the event. Some, such as Bath Iron Works, are hiring massive numbers – up to 1,400 each year for the indefinite future as they work to fulfill the biggest order of military ships in their history. Others, such are Machias Savings Bank [MSB], have just a few open positions at present. No matter the number of employees the recruiters were looking for, they each had a common goal of building a relationship with their future workforce.
Employers were advised the day before of how many interviews they’d conduct. Approximately twenty interviews were scheduled – and while not all employers had them pre-scheduled, they still made a point to attend as they saw the event’s value to their organizations and the students. “I enjoy building relationships,” said Hillary Tibbetts, Human Resource Specialist with MSB. “I want to be a friendly face that they can see in the community and connect with when they have questions.”
Tibbetts made easy connections with several students, including Brooke Alley and Jenna Deniger, both of whom are in WCCC’s Early Childhood Education program. Alley said the event was “an awesome opportunity for students to be able to get experience in job interviews,” sharing that she’d signed up for three – including one with Tibbetts.
“It gives you much more information about what different jobs are about,” Deniger said. Like Alley, she interviewed with Baileyville School Department and Sunrise Opportunities – the first of which because it aligns with her long-term goal of becoming a teacher and the later because it provides an opportunity for the acquisition of on-the-job certifications.
“I think it’s great that Washington County Community College is including the success of students within their majors,” Alley affirmed. “I mostly want to get the interview experience, but I would be pleased to work at any of those three places.”