Students learn about job market, hone application skills at fourth annual ‘Job Prep 101’

In an effort to help students heading into the work force, the Anoka-Hennepin School District and Anoka Chamber of Commerce have created "Job Prep 101." The fourth annual event was held April 27 at the Staff Development Center in Anoka.

Barb Rice, a career and college specialist at Blaine High School, said the event began in 2009 for students who had decided to go into the work force after graduation. Since that time it has evolved into a day for any high school students interested in honing their job application skills.

College and career specialists from the Anoka-Hennepin School District work with the Anoka Chamber of Commerce Education Committee to determine topics for breakout sessions that will be relevant to students.

Anoka Chamber of Commerce President Peter Turok opened the job prep event in April. He said he told students the event was a great opportunity for them to learn from some amazing people as they begin their search for work. He hopes the students walked away with useful information they can use. For parents of students entering the job market, he hopes they know one of the biggest changes in the world since their first job is the presence of social media.

"Parents should talk to their children about social media and the fact that there are people who are hiring that do look at applicants’ social media," Turok said. "Parents should urge their children to make sure that whatever they have up on social media will help them in the future and not hurt them."

After Turok’s welcome, students heard from Kyle Upoff, the regional analysis and outreach manager with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Upoff shared with students the outlook for jobs and how to turn interests into jobs.

Currently, Minnesota has about 170,000 people looking for jobs; there are almost four job seekers for every vacancy. In the depths of the Great Recession a few years ago, there were eight people for every job opening; one county in east central Minnesota had 32 jobs seekers for every job available.

While it is an employers’ market now, Upoff told students that as Baby Boomers retire, it will become a job seekers’ market for them. In the next 10 years, Minnesota will add 246,000 more jobs and need 639,000 replacement workers for people who are retiring. That means there will be about 900,000 jobs for the students’ generation.

Upoff talked about jobs, some of which are tedious and low paying, and careers, which pay better and provide job satisfaction.

"Everyone starts with a job and works their way into a career," Upoff said. "By time you are 36, you will have 10 different jobs. That has been the case for my generation."

Upoff shared his job/career history with the students. He started working on his family’s ranch and then worked in a restaurant, in retail and as a painter. As his education progressed, he worked as a field assistant, laboratory research assistant, research scientist, and chemistry teacher. Upoff is now a labor market economist and manages other economists.

"Though I was working in boring jobs, I didn’t realize I was gathering a lot of skills that would help me as I worked my way up into a career," Upoff said. "I now use a lot of the people skills I learned when working at the restaurant and in retail. When you get a job, gain every amount of skill you can squeeze out of it; use your opportunities."

Growing up in the ’80s, Upoff heard the U.S. needed scientists, so he went to college to become a scientist. Not only after earning a college degree did Upoff find out that there were no actual jobs for scientists, and he found he didn’t like the work.

"Many people have made life decisions based on bad data – you need to have good information," he said. "When looking into jobs, make sure you will make enough to pay your bills, and if you are going to further your education, make sure there will be jobs available when you are done.

"You also have to be honest with yourself when thinking about what you want to do with your life and the steps you need to take to get there."

In the U.S., 17 of the 20 fastest growing jobs require education or training after high school. Upoff showed students the list of fastest growing occupations between 2009 and 2019.

"If you look at this list and don’t think you are interested in any of these jobs, that’s OK," he said. "There are many more jobs to choose from. Do your research."

One growing area is the health care industry. Upoff shared information with the students that within health care there are numerous jobs that require different levels of education and experience. They range from being a health care aid, which requires little education and experience that can be gained on the job, to a biomedical engineer, which may require a PhD.

While students may have heard that manufacturing doesn’t have a future, Upoff said that’s not true. Manufacturing jobs exist in Minnesota; the positions require more skills than were needed in the past. While students’ grandparents and parents may have gone from high school straight into a manufacturing job, now many welding and machining positions require postsecondary training and/or a degree.

"Your jobs will be interesting; jobs won’t be as momentous as they’ve been in the past," Upoff said, "but you will need an education."

In addition to training and education, skills are also important. Upoff said good communication and customer service skills and computer knowledge are required for future jobs.

"There are lots of resources out there; use them," Upoff said. "My generation didn’t have as many resources as you do now. Participate in a job shadow, talk with people who work in a field you are interested in to learn more and try to make good decisions.

"There are no bad jobs. Every job is an opportunity to develop skills you will use throughout your entire life."

After Upoff’s presentation, students had four breakout sessions. Rice spoke about applications and resumes. Scott Bernstein, the director of Mathnasium, spoke about how professionalism pays. Darcy Hokkanen, with the Anoka County Workforce Center, spoke about first impressions and interviewing. Emily Fulton, from Empire Beauty School, spoke about cyber and social media.

Rice reviewed how to fill out applications, talked about why certain questions are asked and how to highlight skills and abilities.

Bernstein, who serves on the Education Committee for the Anoka Chamber of Commerce, told students that first impressions with prospective employers are very powerful.

"First impressions matter and you have seven seconds to make that positive professional first impression," Bernstein said.

With that in mind, Bernstein recommended the following basic elements to creating a positive professional impression during an interview: be on time; turn off cell phones; treat those you initially meet like they will be hiring you; dress for success; make sure personal grooming matches the work environment; strong greeting manners; show confidence; and come prepared to fill out an application.

Bernstein said he enjoyed having the opportunity to prepare young job seekers and staging them for future success.

"Throughout their lifetime they will often be on the side of the ‘job seeker’ and the better their first steps, the greater their success in the future," he said.

In her presentation, Hokkanen, a senior vocation youth counselor, spoke about how to be more competitive in a very tight job market. She told students that 90 percent of why people are chosen for a job depends on the first impression with an employer.

"I started to give them instant feedback of the first impression I had of them and how this can help prepare them for an interview," she said.

Hokkanen enjoyed being part of Jobs Prep 101 because she finds it exciting to get to meet students that are interested in being successful in their job search.

"The youth who attended the event were there because they wanted to have an ‘edge’ over other job seekers," she said. "I love young people and I find it a privilege and a blessing to be able to give them some tools that will help them meet their individual career goals. Anoka-Hennepin youth are high energy and very talented youth. I get the joy of cheering them on as they start their personal journeys."