A statewide virtual career fair will be open to students in grades 6-8 this year.

Community Coordinators Collaborative is the host group of education professionals who created the organization in 2018 to increase career and internship opportunities for students. This is the second year they’re offering a virtual fair, which was previously offered only to high school students.

Mandy Lewis, principal of Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, said she hopes “students will take away ideas that further inspire engagement in their education.” Her school chose to participate, she said, because “it’s never too early to provide students with an opportunity to explore career possibilities and interests.”

C3 heard from middle school teachers last year that they wanted their students to be able to attend, said Justine Carlisle, Yarmouth High School Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator and vice co-chairperson of the host group.

“It’s important that we expose students at a younger age to opportunities; we can’t wait until they’re in high school for them to hear about career opportunities that are within the state,” Carlisle said.

The fair will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 22-23. It will kick off with a series of pre-recorded messages from keynote speakers such as Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. Live 30-minute presentations with moderated question and answer sessions will follow. will follow. Multiple presentations will occur at the same time and students or classes can choose which ones to attend.

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Representatives from Bath Iron Works, Unum, Jackson Labs, Texas Instruments, Portland Stage and Portland Police Department will be among the businesses and organizations that will be participating. Registration for businesses is free; both businesses and schools can sign up at mevirtualcareerfair.org. The deadline is March 14.

South Portland High School used to host a one-day career fair where students would have in-person sessions with businesses. That event has not been hosted for the past two years due to COVID-19 precautions.

“This will be a great replacement for students,” Carlisle said. “They’re missing that connection to different career opportunities and thinking about how you can apply what you’re learning in school to the workforce and what happens when you graduate and help them make those connections between education and life post-high school.”

Other middle schools participating include Durham Community School, Freeport Middle School and Standish-based Sacopee Valley Middle School.

“With middle schoolers, this is laying the foundation,” said Dede Bennell, RSU 5 outreach coordinator and member of the fair’s planning committee. “There are so many kinds of careers out there and they’re pretty young to really start thinking about that stuff, but this will feed them a little bit of information and pique their interest. (The fair) will put some things on their radar that maybe they hadn’t thought about before.”

Not only does a virtual fair allow for more flexibility during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it expands C3’s reach across the state.

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“By making this career fair virtual, it creates a more equitable process for schools throughout the state,” Carlisle said. “Before, these types of events depended on where you were geographically. It’s much easier for us to organize them in Cumberland County and in Southern Maine than in other areas of the state. It’s important that no matter where you are in Maine that students are exposed to these opportunities and know they exist.”

Tickets are $1 per student with a minimum purchase of 50 tickets. Bennell said schools can either disperse individual tickets to interested students or sell a single ticket to teachers that want their whole class to participate under a single ticket. So far, C3 has sold 2,000 tickets.

Rachel Vitello — 207-791-6073

[email protected]

Twitter: @RVitello_TF

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