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South Hills Career Fair Provides Opportunities for Students, Businesses Alike

by Britney Milazzo
Centre Daily Times

The following article was the “Business” feature on Centre Daily Times on March 31, 2016.

BOALSBURG — It was only a year ago that a trio of South Hills School of Business & Technology graduates were students at an annual career fair organized by their school.

But Josh Bricker, John Laidlaw and Carrie Tofa were on the other end Thursday working as business representatives for Shaner at that same job fair.

The 2015 South Hills Business Administration—Accounting grads work at the State College-based hospitality management company, which Laidlaw said is in the market for interns.

“We’re making some changes now so we’re not taking interns at the moment, but we need interns next year and are getting a feel for some students who might be interested,” Laidlaw said.

South Hills has been organizing a career fair for its students for about 20 years. It was open to all first- and second-year students in search of an internship required for graduation, and/or the possibility of future job opportunities.

“I’ve been working here for 28 years, and it wasn’t that long after that we started this,” said Jeffry Stachowski, Corporate Training director for South Hills’ three campuses in Altoona, Lewistown, and State College. “We started with 20 or so companies and have slowly grown.”

This year, 92 companies from central Pennsylvania congregated at Mountain View Country Club for the event, and about 400 students were present, Stachowski said.

And he added that most business representatives were also South Hills grads.

“It’s not the number of companies that counts, but the quality of internships available,” Stachowski said.

He said that as the economy bounces back from a recession stemming back at least eight years ago, school administrators are seeing that many companies are “redoubling” efforts to hire.

STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — Stachowski said, are “in-demand jobs” that South Hills graduates are specifically trained for.

“We’re a two-year degree-granting school that specializes in these careers,” Stachowski said. “We provide for that with our students being our primary clients, but businesses being our secondary clients so we can help build the workforce.”

Ellen Thorne graduated in 2003 from South Hills’ Computer Information Systems program , which was renamed Information Technology.

Every year since she’s been in the workforce after graduation, Thorne participated in the career fair with her employer.

On Thursday, she represented InFocus Corp. — a technology development company based in Tigard, Ore., with offices in Sunnyvale, Calif., and Boalsburg.

“I try to make it back here every year, because I know what it’s like to be in their shoes,” Thorne said. “It’s a win-win. Students have the chance to find internships, and companies can come here with the chance to get quality students to fill those positions.”

The best advice Tofa said she has for students is to take initiative, work hard and go the extra step.

“I think a lot of places look for a person that makes the extra effort,” she said.

South Hills requires students to do an internship before graduation.

Stachowski said that of those students who’ve done an internship, about 35 to 40 percent get a full-time job at the same company where they interned.

“They start out with good-paying jobs at a beginning position but often work their way up to management levels,” Stachowski said. “An administrative assistant might not sound sexy. You don’t just get a corner office, but it’s an in-demand position with potential to grow to office management positions. It’s not just a secretary anymore, but an information worker.”

Original Story & Photo Credits

Original article by Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Photos by Nabil K. Mark: nmark@centredaily.com

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