By Greg Oliver
CLEMSON — Littlejohn Coliseum was packed Wednesday morning but those in attendance weren’t there to see a basketball game.
Instead, the middle school students who attended from Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties were there to seek options on career possibilities during the fourth annual Business and Industry Showcase.
“We probably have 60-65 vendors throughout the tri-county area and it’s basically a three-day commitment,” said Wayne Frady, coordinator of business and industry for the School District of Oconee County. “They set up Tuesday and are here all day Wednesday and Thursday.”
Frady said the students that attend seem to enjoy the potential job opportunities that exist at the showcase.
“The students have a worksheet and if they see a business or industry they are interested in, they can stop by and ask about the skill level and other things,” he said.”
Betsy Burkett, transition facilitator for the School District of Oconee County who works at the Hamilton Career Center, said students are required to write their individual graduation plans at the end of their eighth-grade year and select a career cluster. Among the fields her students are most interested in are construction, food service and retail.
“It means so much to them (students that attend) to hear about these fields from somebody else,” Burkett said.
Alliance Pickens Executive Director Ray Farley said the showcase represents one of the events that Pickens County enjoys getting involved in “to incite and excite young people of the career opportunities available to them throughout our area.”
“The marketplace today is rewarding skills versus the degree, meaning that employers may not necessarily require a four-year degree,” Farley said. “For example, we have 18-year-olds graduating from our career (and technology) center and their first year on the job they’re making $50,000 simply because they learned and developed a skill that was in demand in the marketplace.”
“Therefore, one of the key emphases of the showcase is to open the eyes of young people of the technical careers that are available to them and the ease they can receive technical education and training for those careers.”
Chris Parker, a career counselor at Seneca Middle School, said many of the students when first entering the showcase seem unaware of the numerous career possibilities that exist. But once they began examining what is offered, Parker said robotics and electronics appeared to be two of their favorites.
“They’re able to connect what they see with what they’re hearing (about in school),” Parker said.
Jerrod Garton, an eighth-grade student at Riverside Middle School, is among those considering electronics as a career.
“I would like to be an x-ray technician,” Garton said.
David Cantrell, a freshman at Wren High School, said the showcase provides an invaluable experience to those that attend.
“It’s good for anybody who is looking for a good-paying job to come here,” Cantrell said.