September 14, 2017 3:00PM
From the nation's largest military shipbuilding company to a small, virtual reality business from Manhattan, Kansas, they're all coming for one thing: to make connections with students.
It's no ordinary career fair, though.
"It's designed to develop relationships between students and our industry partners," said John Iley, a university professor and chair of Technology and Workforce Learning.
The event gives the companies a chance to see the university's facilities and meet students on their home turf: one of the largest, most state-of-the-art learning environments in the region that is turning out graduates with expertise in construction, construction management, environmental safety management, interior design, graphics and imaging technologies, wood technology, two-year electrical, automotive/diesel/collision and engineering technology (electronics, manufacturing, mechanical, and plastics).
Thirty of the companies are coming from the Wichita area, while 10 are coming from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and more than 60 from the Kansas City area. Others are coming in from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin.
Faculty encourage students to use the event to begin exploring possibilities that companies have to offer and to build relationships and lay the groundwork by looking for internships.
"It's also a great opportunity for them to polish their networking skills like introducing themselves, shaking hands, making eye contact, and asking questions," Iley said. "We intentionally do not bill it as 'career fair' because that infers the event is exclusively for graduating seniors actively seeking full time employment." Companies on this year's slate are diverse. They include ZL Engineering Plastics, which has representatives coming all the way from its parent company, Zell-Metall Engineering Plastics, in Vienna, Austria, to look for an intern willing to work there for two years.
"We're coming to Pitt State because there are very few polymer science programs throughout the country, but Pitt State has one and it's relatively down the street from us," said Eric Giesen, with the company's location in Lenexa. "Our product is used in numerous industries throughout the country, in medical, aerospace, food processing, construction, and there are many opportunities for careers."
Giesen, who has toured the KTC numerous times, said he was attracted by PSU's reputation.
"We want to further our business, our program, and garner new interest in the world of plastics," he said. "Our industry is seeking younger, fresh talent to pass the baton to."
Company Day also will include JNT, a small but growing interactive web and marketing agency from Beloit, Kansas, that works with a diverse group of industries. Owner Jeff Hake is considering recruiting graphics students to help with unique mobile virtual reality environments that might become the basis for permanent theaters in public spaces such as museums. They'll have a demo going in room S102.
And, Company Day will include Huntington Ingalls Industries, whose shipbuilding divisions in Virginia and Mississippi have built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, HII employs nearly 37,000 people operating both domestically and internationally.
While several of companies at this year's event are newcomers, several, including Key Construction, McCown Gordon, JE Dunn, Hensel Phelps, Dondlinger, The Law Company, The Weitz Company, Crossland, and Simpson Construction, have been here most years since the event began when the KTC opened 20 years ago.
And Eby Construction, based in Wichita, has never missed a year. Serving many construction markets, including general building, manufacturing and industrial, higher education, and medical, its scope of services includes new facilities, modernizations and improvements, and plant expansions. Eby says people are the company's greatest asset, and employee recruitment and development are an ongoing part of their daily routine.
Students say they've found the event important and engaging.
Zach Geinger, a plastics engineering technology student from St. Francis, Kansas, said it enabled him to build a rapport with companies that ought to pan out after he graduates in May.
"I’ll finally be able to come to the guys that I’ve gotten to know and talked to and learned about their company over the years, and talk about a position if they are willing," he said. "It's really exciting. It’s one of the main places students come to find a job in plastics. It just makes life 10 time easier for us as prospective careers go."
From an economic standpoint, Blake Benson, who heads up the City of Pittsburg's economic development and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said events like Company Day not only benefit students, they are a boon to the entire community.
"...they’re not only filling hotel rooms, they’re filling them with business representatives that may be looking for new areas of expansion," he said.