Students seeking careers in education and health may find new connections at virtual fair Feb. 18
By Belle Wright
Western Washington University’s Career Services Center is hosting an online Education and Health Career Fair, giving students in education and health-related careers a chance to network for internships and job opportunities.
The event will take place Feb. 19. Attending speakers will come from 35 different organizations around Washington state including school districts, universities, health care centers, housing groups and community centers.
Students interested in education, mental health services, pre-audiology, speech pathology, pre-physical therapy, nursing and other various education and health-related careers are encouraged to attend.
The event will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Zoom. Registration is available to students through Viking CareerLink.
Beth Dillard, a Western assistant professor in education with a concentration in Bilingual/ELL Endorsement, is very familiar with events of this type.
“When I was a new teacher myself, I went to a few fairs like this and it was really helpful to get a sense of the number of districts there that were there and do some comparisons between them,” Dillard said.
These fairs are especially important for students preparing to enter the job market, Dillard said.
“One thing that I talk with my students who are just about to graduate is how important it is to find out if districts have mentoring programs for them as new teachers,” Dillard said. “So it’s really helpful and important to get that kind of information at a fair like this.”
There will be potential employers in both education and health-related fields at the event.
Austyn Woods, Human Resources generalist at Unity Care NW, is seeking to employ students looking for a career in the healthcare field.
Woods said Unity Care NW has multiple entry-level positions that don’t require previous credentials, such as a call center agent, case manager, clinic receptionist and a health information management specialist position.
Nurse practitioner positions have an expected growth rate of 52% between 2019 and 2029, making it the second fastest growing occupation in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Between 2019 and 2029, occupational therapy assistants have an expected growth rate of 35%, making it the fourth fastest growing career. Finally, medical and health services managers have a projected growth of 32%, ranking eighth.
“I think there's a lot of benefits to this event,” Woods said. “First and foremost, it allows them to see what options are out there in their community, and allows them to talk with professionals to have a better understanding of what an agency might be looking for in a specific role.”
Woods said a fair of this type provides opportunities for students to fine-tune their resumes and explore new skills.
“It also just gives them an opportunity to practice public speaking and show their professional skills,” Woods said.
Dillard advised students that proper preparation before an event of this sort is crucial.
“It requires some sort of preparation even before you go because it can be such an overwhelming event,” Dillard said. “So, go into it having a sense that you know you're not going to talk to every single person, and make a plan for how you're going to use your time there.”
Dillard said bringing your resume and being prepared for a pre-interview could provide an upper hand over other applicants.
Sydney Salling, a fourth-year communication sciences and disorders student at Western, is graduating to go into speech language pathology, one of the occupations being featured at the career fair.
Salling said she believes it’s important to know people and make connections in order to get job opportunities and internships.
“It's good to know people in the field of your major because eventually, for those who go to grad school, they might have to do internships or start working in places related to their major as a graduation requirement,” Salling said. “So, it's good to connect with people.”
“This career fair is probably one of the best ways to do it,” she said.
Salling said the move to a virtual career fair has its advantages and disadvantages.
Salling said she didn’t receive any emails or notifications about the event, which she thought was strange since her major could benefit from it. She also said getting students to notice the event can be a disadvantage having it online, but believes it can be just as informative as an in-person event.
“For instance, if it's people attending involved in a field like speech language pathology, for example, they have to be pretty well adjusted to being an SLP online because they weren't able to see patients in person,” Salling said. “But people still need the therapy, so a lot of that is done through Zoom right now.”
Woods said the event being online can provide more undivided attention from students.
“As long as they come prepared with any questions they have, I think they can get a lot out of this event,” Woods said.