At the annual Coastal Bend Career and Job Fair Wednesday, the lure was evident. Among 30 vendors, the Beeville Police Department stole the show.
After the law enforcement officers allowed students to try on flak jackets and helmets, the students stayed to encircle the officers who kept their attention by telling war stories.
All the other, related vendors—the Bee County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice—could do was watch and wish.
The 8th annual event— sponsored by Coastal Bend College, Workforce Solutions of South Texas, radio station KTKO and the Expo Center—attracted between 200 and 400 high school juniors from Pettus, Three Rivers and McMullen County.
The fair occurred just as the U.S. Commerce Department reported the country’s economy had slowed drastically in the first three months of the year.
Economists had hoped to report a 200,000-job gain but remain optimistic that 2014 will be considered the year of recovery from what now is being called the Great Recession.
They expect robust growth will reduce the nation’s unemployment rate, which was 6.8 percent in March—the latest month for which figures are available.
A.C. Jones and Taft High School were scheduled to participate but didn’t.
CBC boasted six tables to offer information about its oil and gas programs, welding, air frame and automotive, enrollment, employment at the college and financial aid.
To entice prospective employees, most vendors offered some kind of freebie, including lanyards in two colors by the National Guard and all varieties of candy. At least one vendor, with nothing to offer, soon left.
The fair started at 10 a.m. (the Three Rivers school bus arrived at 8 a.m.) and closed down at 2 p.m.
Three Rivers junior Kyle Lange wished there had been more vendors. “I want to be a chef, but I didn’t find anything here except Stripes. However, I liked the police table—that’s is the only one with a gun!”
Roy Coley, the oil and gas professor at CBC, admitted, “I don’t really need to be here. I get calls every day from people who want to take my classes.”
Vendors such as H-E-B, Walmart and McDonald’s could only envy Coley.
Those attending were not limited to high school students.
Marilyn Grage of Beeville sat at a table by herself filling out an application to work at Ranch Hand, the local company that manufactures deer-guard bumpers for trucks.
“This is the first time I’ve attended a job fair,” she said, as she scooped up the paperwork to visit other vendors.
At noon, when it was time for Three Rivers students to return to their bus for the trip home, they walked out with what only could be called a texting frenzy.
In between hauling in food for the vendors, Lindsey Hagen, career development and special needs advisor for CBC, termed the fair a success.
“We started planning this year’s fair in January,” she said. “This year’s fair had the most diverse selection of vendors. Folks made a lot of connections.”
Colton Brown, a junior at Three Rivers who aspires to become a biomedical technician, summed it up: “It was limited, but it was fun.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.