1,300 Middle School Students Attend First Napa County Career Fair

8th Graders Discover Careers at “Inspire Napa” Event

NapaLearns Press Release
Published on March 22, 2019

Students experience a broad spectrum of careers at career fair

The scene at the Napa County Expo was a buzz of activities. Students made their way from booth to booth, experiencing a broad spectrum of careers and activities. A group of girls from American Canyon Middle School said, “This is fun! We get to have new experiences, see what’s around us and learn new things about jobs.” Another group of students from Redwood Middle School were also enjoying the day. “It’s nice seeing things that our future depends on,” said one. Her friend added, “This helped me find things for me to do in my future because currently I’m not sure.”

On March 21, 2019 more than 1,300 students from every middle school in Napa County came together at the Napa Valley Expo to be inspired by 37 local businesses on the variety of occupations available to them for future employment.

The Napa County Office of Education (NCOE) in partnership with NapaLearns, Napa Valley Unified, St. Helena Unified and Calistoga Joint Unified School Districts, the American Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Travis Credit Union and the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay hosted the first countywide, interactive career fair: “Inspire Napa: Dreams Start Now!”

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Career fair takes a hands-on approach

The event was highly interactive: Every organization’s booth at the fair had some activity for students to engage in — from welding to life support to creating special concoctions to drink.

In advance, all of the students took the Holland career assessment test and businesses were assigned Holland Codes based on the type of work they perform. This tool measures interest levels in occupational areas to help the students understand which jobs would suit their interests, talents, and current skills, and then it provides a set of occupations that would be a good match. This way, students had a roadmap to follow before getting to the event.

“Many of you might remember attending career fairs when you were in school,” said Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County Superintendent of Schools. “Like some students, you may have spent the day wandering around with a group of friends and stopping at various tables with little direction. Inspire Napa was different. It was one of the best career fairs I have ever seen because students had the opportunity to pre-select career areas that matched their personalities and interests, and every booth had a hands-on activity for the students to do. Middle school is a crucial time to engage students in career exposure and exploration programs so they have some idea of the electives they may want to take in high school. This event was the first big step in getting students to think about their futures.”

Gillie Miller, Director of College and Career Readiness for NCOE, and the impetus behind Inspire Napa, added, “Our goal was to maximize the impact of this career day, and ‘inspire’ students to see their academic efforts as building blocks to career opportunities here in Napa County. Exposing students to the broad career fields available can also help them make more informed decisions about high school course selection and graduation pathways.”

Students, teachers and organizations enthusiastic about the day

One male middle school student attending the event said, “We had fun … cooking stuck out for me.” While another added, “I learned how to weld. It’s something I might want to do down the road. This day was worthwhile.” The boys’ friend agreed. “I saw a lot of opportunity for us in the future. As we look out, there are a lot of resources available for us.”

Teachers and administrators were enthusiastic and chimed in. Ted Ward, Assistant Principal at Redwood Middle School, commented, “This is an amazing event. It’s important because for kids in middle school, college and careers can feel so far away. Having many hands-on activities for them to participate in while they’re in the 8th grade and getting ready to go into high school, where there’s so many different programs and career paths, is an incredible opportunity. They’ll remember those tactile things and they’ll have the knowledge of what they would need to do to follow a particular career path.”

“This career day is great because many kids think college is the only avenue after high school. Seeing all these different trades and how much they make opened up new avenues for them. I mention that in class, but now that they’ve seen it first hand and have had hands on activity, it’s more real,” added Carston Tate, teacher of science and cooking at American Canyon Middle School.

A community effort

There were a range of organizations represented including resorts, healthcare providers, public services, and wineries. Participants included Embassy Suites Napa, Auberge Resorts, OLE Health, Kaiser Permanente, Starbucks, E. & J. Gallo, Bank of Stockton, Napa Valley College, the Napa Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, and Travis Credit Union. Every booth was busy all day.

Whitney Diver McEvoy, President and CEO of Yountville Chamber of Commerce emphasized, “It’s incredibly important for our youth to understand the variety of careers available to them. Through Inspire Napa, they are able to interact with different aspects of careers to figure out what they like and what appeals to them. My hope is two fold: First, that our business community can engage with youth and show them the different possibilities for their careers. And second, that our youth are exposed to more things than just sports or social influence, and that they understand that they can make a great living by working in the hospitality world or being a firefighter. There is more available than a four year education, which is important, but it’s not for everyone. Not everyone has to go to college to achieve their dreams.”

Keith Burhorn, Front Office Manager at the Embassy Suites Napa added, “I would like to say that the labor market in Napa is very, very tough right now. In the hospitality industry, which is a major part of the Napa economy, we’re having a tough time finding people. I came here today to plant a seed with some of these kids to let them know that there are plenty of job opportunities right here and now in Napa. When they’re looking to get a job down the road, I hope they remember this and come join us.”

A lot of behind the scenes work went into making this event a success, including support from NapaLearns.

“We were excited to help sponsor this event,” said Peg Maddocks, Executive Director of NapaLearns. “We believe that career-oriented learning opportunities like this can help students stay engaged in their studies. This event also helped connect what students are learning in the classroom to their future college and career choices.”


This press release appeared in the Napa Valley Register on March 22, 2019.