Aligning your dreams: Impactful career fairs for students

by Dr. Rick Parrent, Volunteer State Community College

Earlier this year, the third annual P16 Career Exploration Fair connected eighth grade students with career representatives and higher education faculty. The Career Exploration Fair was developed in collaboration with the North Central P16 Council, Volunteer State Community College, and multiple community partners. Every year, the Career Exploration Fair has grown to deliver an engaging, impactful event to Tennessee eighth graders. This year, Macon County Schools joined Sumner and Trousdale Counties in participating, bringing the number of children served to over 2,600.

The Career Exploration Fair provides an avenue for eighth graders to explore a breadth of career areas and make an informed decision when choosing their high school courses. The fair helps raise awareness and excitement by showing incoming high school freshmen the relevance of their studies and the opportunities their futures hold. As opposed to a job fair where students visit companies, the career fair allows companies to work together to present career options for students to explore. The main focus of exhibits is to showcase a broad spectrum of possible careers while college faculty are present to explain the educational pathway that will prepare students to move their dreams to a reality.

The event is the capstone activity that culminates a multi-week preparation program, including a career interest survey, to assist students with their career discovery, career development and readiness, as well as soft skills and professionalism. The culmination of the student’s hard work is exhibited the day of the fair. Industry representatives share insight into future career opportunities with students through hands-on exhibits with technical enhancements that make the event exciting. While research exposes students to certain details, the career exploration experience brings to life future opportunities by meeting and interviewing professionals. By exposing students to experts within career fields, they are able to gain an appreciation and clear vision for how to attain their desired career and life goals.

Julia Bazenet, of Portland East Middle School, expressed the value of the fair to her high school plans, stating,

“Getting to ask the right questions now means making the right decisions next year.”

To request a copy of a resource guide designed to assist you develop, plan, and execute a career exploration fair for middle and high school students, please email your request to Dr. Rick Parrent, Director, Office of Career Placement, Cooperative Education, & Service Learning at


, ,