Hundreds of well-dressed students descended on UNC Charlotte’s Barnhardt Student Activity Center Feb. 7 for the Experiential Learning and Part-time Job Fair.
The university organizes the event each spring to match employers with college students looking for part-time jobs, co-ops or internships.
Each year, the fair attracts more than 50 employers from all sectors of private industry and around 600 UNCC students.
Although some students come in search of part-time employment to help with their college expenses, the emphasis of the fair is on finding ways to build a good résumé before graduation.
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For many, that means finding internship opportunities.
The fair is scheduled during the final day of Internship Week, a time when employers set up office hours on the UNCC campus to recruit students and offer insight on business etiquette and other related topics.
“Internships are probably one of the most important things to do while they’re students to get relevant experience,” said Brooke Brown, a senior assistant director for publicity and outreach at UNCC.
The university’s research shows that experience can pay off when it’s time to get hired.
“When we’ve done surveys in the past with alumni, we typically find that our students who have done an internship make $5,000 to $10,000 more in their starting salary than our students who don’t,” said Brown.
In the University Career Center for Work, Service and Internships, Brown works to prepare students for internship interviews. She recommends they come well-dressed, with a good résumé and a prepared “elevator speech” – a talk that takes about as long as a ride in an elevator – about themselves.
Cherrelle Henley, set to graduate in December with a degree in software and information systems, came to the fair with all of the above in the hopes of landing a few internship interviews.
“It gets your feet wet and gives you a taste of reality,” Henley said of the importance of internships. “What we’re taught here in school is really good; however, when you get out there in the workforce, things can change dramatically.”
The university has staged the experiential fair every year for at least the past decade, said Brown, and many of the same employers attend year after year. Each year, the U.S. National Whitewater Center looks to fill both internships and part-time jobs.
“It’s proven to be a very good resource for us,” said Rod Pickett, a recruiter with the U.S. National Whitewater Center. “We’ve found some wonderfully well-equipped young people, and they’re here year-round.”
Corning Inc., another company that regularly sets up a booth at the fair, has between 25 and 30 internships in marketing, human resources and manufacturing available at several locations in North Carolina.
“We’ve had success with graduates from UNCC,” said Scott Wallace, a data process engineer supervisor for Corning. “They have a strong engineering program.”
Inside the fair, Maurice Henley, 30, dropped off résumés and pitched himself to businesses and agencies where he thought he would be a good fit.
Henley, an exercise science major on track to graduate in 2017, came to find a part-time job that would line up with his future career and potentially lead to an opportunity after he graduates.
“Communicating. Networking. That’s what it’s all about,” said Henley.