Nassau County School District
Submitted by Brent Lemond
Nassau County’s Career Education Director
April 20, 2018 12:00 p.m.
On Wednesday, April 18th from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Nassau County School District hosted the region’s first Reverse Job Fair at the Lewis “Red” Bean Nassau Technical Center on the FSCJ Campus in Yulee. Nearly 240 job seekers participated along with 50 hiring managers from Nassau County’s largest employers participated.
If you’re wondering what the reverse job fair looked like, picture the “speed dating” scenes from movies like “Hitch” or TV shows like “House”. Aspiring job-seekers held one of up to 75 stations in a room, and employers were matched for quick one-minute meetings. Every minute or so, employers rotated to meet a new candidate. The applicants initiated the conversation with a handshake and a short synopsis of their qualifications or other relevant information, and the employer responded accordingly. There were three sessions: one for adults, one for high school undergraduates, and one for the class of 2018.
Brent Lemond, Nassau County’s Career Education Director, was extremely pleased with the participation and the results. “We’re very proud of the turnout, both in terms of employers and applicants. Many of our career education students throughout the district were able to connect with employers looking for their specific skills. For example, we had 36 seniors set to earn a nursing assistant license meet with HR representatives from Osprey Village, Baptist Nassau, and LifeCare of Hilliard. Our building construction and HVAC students met several contractors and apprenticeship groups including Miller Electric, Johnny’s AC, and Northeast Florida Builders. Students with these and other related skills met representatives from WestRock, Rayonier Advanced Materials, and specialty retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Our Culinary students learned about opportunities at the Omni and Ritz-Carlton and other area restaurants. Finally, our technology and business student were matched with companies like CSX Technologies and VyStar Credit Union.”
Employers were also pleased with the event. Tina Bowen, Osprey Village’s Business Manager described the event as “wonderful”. Said Bowen, “We came away with more potential employees than I thought we would. In terms of solid leads, this was one of the most successful events I have attended.” Florida Sun Printing’s John Milton added, “There are some possible hires for us; and there were seeds planted for nurturing and growing into the future. (I’m) looking forward to next years’ second ever Reverse Job Fair’!”
Perhaps most excited were the approximately 200 student-participants from Nassau County’s High Schools. Here are just a few quotes:
Brianna Broach, WNHS Senior – “I was very impressed with the Reverse Job Fair this week and excited to report that I have received an offer for employment.” (Baptist Hospital)
James Harshman, WNHS Senior – “The Reverse Job Fair was an awesome event. I have already received an offer for summer employment which I am pursuing.” (Jacksonville Fire-Rescue)
Haley Love, YHS Senior – “It was a great experience for first time interviewees. Is was also a helpful way to network with employers.”
Events like this don’t succeed without support from many. The Nassau County Career Education Department began planning it about two months ago, and picked up help from several organizations and businesses. The Nassau County Economic Development Board’s staff assisted the Career Ed staff in recruiting employers and managing the event. CareerSource volunteered to assist in reviewing resumes, and staff from FSCJ’s Nassau Center provided tours and information to participants. VyStar Credit Union sponsored the student and employer lunches and the WNHS and YHS VyStar Academy teachers and students handled feeding the groups.
Lemond was clearly happy with the result. “This is an example of the type of impact that can be made when so many community stakeholders come together. We could see students gaining confidence with each introduction, so it was truly a learning event. Best of all, employers found the talent they were seeking and many students and adults walked away with new opportunities. We’ll definitely look to do it again, and hopefully even better, next year.”