The Un-career fair career fair


Photo above: Wynne Tyree

By Scott Robertson

CareerQuestTn, which held a career fair for 5,000 Northeast Tennessee high school students last year and plans to invite 6,000 this year, will first hold a smaller event targeted at white collar careers called “CareerQuestTN: It’s All About Business.” Some 500 high school juniors and seniors from 25 schools will attend the March 2 event at Northeast State Community College.

Some businesses simply don’t show well at traditional career fairs. While the power company lets kids climb power poles and the hospital has them applying bandages to talking mannequins, what can the HR firms and accountants’ offices do to compete? This fair is designed to help students learn important, but less fun-for-a-teen-ager skills, from how to prepare for a job interview to how to start their own business. Career tracks include auditing and accounting; banking, finance and financial planning; marketing and human resources.

“I think back to when I was that age,” says Wynne Tyree, president of Smarty Pants who will be running a Shark Tank-style entrepreneur competition with $1,000 and $500 prizes. “I knew no professionals. We have the opportunity here to expose these young people to lots of white collar options they may not realize are there for them.”

Events like this are of particular value to rural students, says Steven Dixon of Bank of Tennessee, who was raised in Clinchco, Va. “Growing up in a rural community, I would see things on television, but I couldn’t relate to them. This event will give those kids someone to interact with, someone they can relate to in these fields.”

Just as the event helps the students, it serves to reinvigorate the professions involved, says Calvin Klem, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial. “Around 10,000 of me are retiring every year,” Klem says of financial advisors. “Only around 3,200 new ones are coming in. The average age of a financial advisor in America is 61. It’s an industry-wide problem.”

Sponsors include Bank of Tennessee; Blackburn, Childers & Steagall; Smarty Pants and Northwestern Mutual. The Business Journal of Tri-Cities TN/VA is media sponsor. Career Quest TN is seeking volunteers from the business community to assist. “I think of it in terms both of giving back and paying it forward,” says Karen McMurray of Blackburn, Childers & Steagall. Interested parties should contact Lottie Ryans at 423.722.5101.

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