The third annual College Students Career Expo at The University of Texas-Pan American offered students from across South Texas the chance to submit their résumés to some of the top corporations and organizations in the nation.
More than 1,000 students walked through the doors of the UTPA Fieldhouse during the Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week Career Expo that featured more than 60 employers looking to hire some of UTPA's best and brightest students.
Velinda Reyes, UTPA Career Placement Services director, said the expo is the biggest by far of any HESTEC Career Expo with a largest number of employers ever in attendance. Reyes said the expo is an opportunity for University students to see what is available in the job market and visit with recruiters from some of the nation's top companies.
"This Career Expo is for all students from the South Texas area, not just UTPA. This provides students with the chance to network with these employers and it also gives organizations that may not be able to go to other universities on their own the chance to recruit in one central location at UTPA," Reyes said.
Reyes hopes students who attend the Career Expo walk away with a possible internship, co-op or full-time job opportunities. Frances Garcia, inspector general for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, said this is her third year participating at the HESTEC Career Expo and every time she attends she is impressed with the caliber of students UTPA produces.
Garcia said UTPA's outstanding reputation in producing national award-winning accounting students keeps her coming back to recruit. Garcia, who served as a judge in the National Student Case Study Competition in Miami where UTPA took first place for the second year in a row, said she had the opportunity to see UTPA students in action and was wowed by their presentation.
"We are looking for the best and the brightest and we have them here," Garcia said. "This (expo) speaks for the caliber of students here because we have 68 employers all competing for these students and you have plenty of students to go around. Everyone is coming to the Valley because they know the students are here and we are all looking for the same person, somebody that is capable with a good grade point average."
Garcia said she is looking to create a long-term partnership with UTPA by establishing an internship program in the College of Business Administration for students to earn college credit. She said her office looks for students with an average 3.0 GPA.
"We are looking for people interested in achieving results, people that can maintain client and customer focus. They also need to be able to think critically and analyze because that is what we do. We are the watchdog for the government and they work for Congress. I am the watchdog's watchdog," Garcia said.
One of the representatives from Kraft Foods was Rod Christmon, associate director, North American Diversity, Human Resources. Making their first trip to HESTEC, Christmon said Kraft had heard about the great students in South Texas and at UTPA.
"We saw it as an opportunity to expand our base from a university relations perspective. We have openings in sales, marketing, human resources, manufacturing, engineering, procurement, finance, and accounting, pretty much the whole spectrum of opportunities for the students. We really think Kraft has opportunities almost for everybody," he said.
Headquartered in Northfield, Ill., near Chicago and with more than 60 plants in the United States, more than 140 plants globally and sales branches located across the country and the world, Kraft, he said, could probably find a location wherever an employee wanted to go.
Jennifer Segars, assistant store director for H-E-B, said they participated in the UTPA Career Expo this year looking to fill positions in department and store management. Segars said the expo was a wonderful way for University students to find out what types of careers their company offers. Segars said H-E-B does not turn away anyone with a résumé, and hold on to them for a year.
"Any major can fit into the retail industry. What we are looking for in a student and an individual is what kind of leadership and communication skills they have. We want someone that is an outgoing individual, with a strong personality and someone who is going to be a great leader and do well for our company," Segars said.
Michael "Ben" Wickberg, branch chief of Industrial Prices in the Dallas Regional Office of the United States Department of Labor, who was seeking economists and mathematical statisticians, said they tried to hire from all areas across the country so they could have as diverse a population of recruits as possible, although he pointed out all of their employees had to be U.S. citizens.
"This fair has been pretty good for us in the past. We have hired some UTPA graduates now based in Washington, D.C.," he said.
Verizon Communications Corporation, which has 230,000 current employees, was being touted highly to students by one of its representatives, Jim Richardson, senior staff, Diversity Recruiting, who pointed out Verizon's exemplary internship programs that exposes students as young as sophomores to the company in order to groom and grow their own pool of employees.
"We have a very successful summer internship program where we are already taking applications for summer 2006," he said, noting that when these internship participants graduate, Verizon is already familiar with their qualities and often offers them a job the moment they graduate.
"I have been impressed that very few résumés that I have seen today have indicated a GPA less than 3.0. That speaks well for the University," he said.
Asked what skill or quality Verizon values highest in an applicant, Richardson said it was accountability. "That person needs to be accountable for his own demeanor, behaviors and development. He or she also needs to be loyal to the company and have the potential for growth," he said.
Some students, manned with résumés and briefcases, came from outside the Valley for the opportunity to expose their talents to companies in one location. Tim De Leon, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, visited the Expo from San Antonio where he is a student at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Hearing about the career fair through an honor society he is a member of, De Leon was excited about being able to talk to the Ford Motor Company representatives as well as other technical companies present.
"It is very exciting to be able to look at possible areas where you might be working or employers you might be working for. I am really happy to have the opportunity to be here today to learn more about the companies in particular, how they plan to transition the college graduate from the college scenario to the work force. With Ford, I like the idea of having a mentor through their Ford College Graduate Program," he said.
De Leon said he had taken advantage of two internships while in school - one with a medical device company and a current one with the Air Force's Center for Environmental Excellence.
Jerry Moreno, district manager for Walgreens, said he was at the Expo recruiting for managerial positions.
"With the growth we have in the area, we have a lot of potential for opportunities. We opened three stores in the area this year. In the next five years we will have close to 3,100 positions open in the United States for Walgreens managers. By 2010 we will have over 7,000 stores in the U.S.," he said.
Representing Walgreens for the first time at HESTEC, Moreno said he was very overwhelmed by how well put together and organized the expo was. "We are getting quality people - people who have already graduated, people about to graduate and people interested in our internship program," he said.
UTPA alumni were also among the busy recruiters trying to nab the top students from the University. Ed Soto, a 1987 graduate in finance from the University, is now a KC135 business operation manager with Boeing in San Antonio and was surprised to find another UTPA graduate now living in San Antonio also, Manny Rodriguez, manning the Kraft Foods booth nearby.
"We are letting kids know that there are opportunities at Boeing. I know the emphasis here is on science and technology but I am looking for good people in finance and accounting," he said. "I have hired over 20 people in last two years and I am always hunting for talent. I am partial to UT alumni and I know they can compete."
He said University President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas had talked to him and Rodriguez during the career fair about starting up a UTPA Alumni Association chapter in San Antonio.
"It would be great for us to get together and start something in San Antonio for people and it would also be a great connection for some of the these kids that wind up in the San Antonio/Austin area. They know that they could come and be mentored and share experiences. It is scary to be away from home for the first time from your family, food and culture. It would be great to be able to extend a hand to the next generation," he said.
Manning a booth stocked with goodies such as popcorn, cereal and snack foods, Esmer Cancino, a national recruiter for General Mills and UTPA alumna, talked to job seekers about the opportunities available within the company who sells brands such as Betty Crocker, Old El Paso and Cheerios.
Cancino, who has a marketing degree from the University, said being prepared at a job fair will ensure a student has the best opportunity to network and get noticed.
"Students should make sure they've done some research on the company and ask tons of questions," she said. "The more questions they ask about a position, they may realize that it may be something they are interested in."
As a Valley native, she told students about her experience of moving away from the area, but said she noticed UTPA students seem more willing lately to accept jobs in other states.
"Recently I've seen more students who have said 'I'll go anywhere. I want to get out of the Valley,'" she said. "So, for me, that's a good thing to start hearing because there are so many opportunities available out there."
Mario Reyes, a senior mechanical engineering major at UT Pan American, came prepared to interview and acquire a job on the spot. Dressed in a business suit and carrying a stack of résumés, he said his main purpose for attending was to survey the prospective employers.
"Like everyone else, I'm here to find a job and get an idea of what's out there in the industry," he said. "I'm trying to find out which companies are looking for engineers and where the best opportunity is. I'm hoping to have a job by the end of the day."
After talking with several of the companies, Reyes said he learned that all of the engineering positions available were outside of the Valley. "I'll move wherever the job is at. That's not a problem," he said.
Mary Ramirez traveled to the Career Expo from Brownsville in hopes of seeking out job opportunities in other states. As a senior majoring in business at The University of Texas at Brownsville, Ramirez said this was the first job fair that she has attended and was amazed with the number of companies and organizations present.
"This event really gives us the opportunity to learn about national companies and jobs available in places other than the Valley," she said. "You also get to talk to people who work for the company, so you learn a lot from them."
Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo, vice president for Academic Affairs at UTPA who was taking a tour of the expo site along with other UTPA administrators, said the event was the best for UTPA students to attend during HESTEC to find out what possibilities are available to them in the government and private sector. Arévalo was excited to learn that numerous companies were interested in hiring UTPA students because of their professionalism and academic success.
"It tells me we are doing the right thing and that we are providing a rigorous curriculum - a curriculum that fits the needs of today's employment market. That tells me we are headed in the right direction," Arévalo said.