Avery High School holds job fair

Avery High School sophomores Jackson Flores and Maddox Pipen talk with Amanda Merritt of Lees-McRae College about educational opportunities during the ACHS Job Fair on March 12.

NEWLAND — As high school school students crisscrossed between the tables and recruiters presenting their pitches at Avery High School’s career and job fair on Thursday, March 12, there was a sense of optimism in the air.

Students engaged with the various corporate and business representatives who were educating the students on the opportunities available to them locally, thus helping to dispel the myth that there is a lack of opportunity in Avery County.

“We have a lot of companies who are hiring currently, which we’ve heard a lot from our faculty, our staff, our students and the community that there are not jobs in Avery County and there are. There are plenty of jobs,” Career Development Coordinator Summer Watson said.

Present at the career fair were 25 different employers, including Diamond Creek Golf Club, Lowes Foods, Avery Electric, Skybest, Appalachian Home Care, YMCA, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation and others. Many of these employers offer students part-time and summer position as well as full-time employment once they graduate.

“The whole idea is that the workforce is constantly looking for new employees,” Career and Technical Education Director Ellis Ayers said. “We want [our students] to connect with the workforce early. So even if they’re not looking for a job next week, next summer, or next year, they still have a greater awareness of what the possibilities happen to be.”

AHS sophomores Maddox Pepin and Jackson Flores both agreed that the job fair provides the students a chance to see what jobs and local careers are available to them. Pepin wants to study civil engineering, while Flores is looking into a career related to computer science.

“It’s good to see what the opportunities are,” Pepin said.

“It’s pretty cool to come out here and get out of class a little bit,” Flores said. “I think I might want to work at a golf course.”

Even if a student does not have his or her mind made up yet on what career they wish to pursue, the event allows these students to begin the process on deciding on this ever-important decision. Some companies even help these students by training them and encouraging them to attain a four-year degree.

“What I’m asking them is, ‘What year are you in school, what is your interest and then, what do you want to do when you get out of school?’” Skybest Recruiter Peggy Winebarger said. “With our company, we’re looking for four-year degree students, bachelor’s degrees, or associate’s degrees in electrical engineering. They have to be 18 or older, they have to be college-bound or already enrolled in college. [They work as] a field service technician. They’re doing repairs in people’s homes, and they’re actually working.”

While not every student will immediately go into the workforce, some will enroll in college upon graduation. Mayland Community College and Lees-McRae College were present to help these students and provide information to help them choose their educational paths.

“[Lees-McRae] is close to home, and a lot of these students are very close to Avery County, so they don’t want to move away,” Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Amanda Merritt said. “We offer the opportunity to get a four-year degree. We have about 1,000 students on the main campus, so if they need a smaller classroom environment, we can provide that for them versus a large university.”

The event later opened up to the public between 4 and 5:30 p.m. after students were dismissed. To learn about open career and job opportunities, visit the Avery County NC Works Career Center at 785 Cranberry Street, Newland or call (828) 766-1385.

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