With résumé in hand and dressed to impress, more than 2,000 students from across the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas had a chance to meet with representatives from 82 corporations, businesses, and government organizations at this year's College Students Career Expo Sept. 29. The expo is part of Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Reyes said this was the third year for the expo and remembers during the first year there were only 14 companies.
"For me, it is very rewarding to see the many new companies that are taking an interest in our students and our University," she said.
In its first year of attending the HESTEC Career Expo, Tyson Foods Inc. arrived in a big way. The company provided and prepared all the food served at lunch for all Expo participants, student visitors and workers. Tyson also donated a $1,500 check during the event to three UTPA student organizations that have assisted them while here - Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Students In Free Enterprise and the Association of Information Technology Professionals.
"Our company is all about feeding people. We wanted to let the campus know what we do and how else better to do that than to show people what we do best. This event is a way to introduce ourselves," said Donnie Smith, group vice president of Logistics, Information Systems and Purchasing, who indicated that Tyson has 114,000 employees and more than 10,000 management positions. Tyson was primarily recruiting in the areas of information systems, production management, industrial engineering, and marketing.
"The percentage of freshmen that are coming to this job fair is amazing. These kids are coming to college to get a career. You don't see that in a lot of schools. It's the kind of students we are looking for," he said.
Smith indicated that Tyson hopes to establish a long-term relationship with UTPA and has already talked to faculty about offering classes from their headquarters in Springdale, Ark. for students in areas that will make them more marketable.
Target Corporation also brought a check to the career expo. They donated $1,000 to the Office of Career Services at UTPA, which has helped them in their recruiting efforts over the years.
Target's representative at the expo was Daniel Torres, store director of the Greatland store in South McAllen and campus recruiting captain for Target. He said they have been recruiting at UTPA for five years and this year hired nine graduates into entry executive/management level positions at the company locally and in San Antonio.
"Upon graduation they are actually running departments and leading teams. We are hoping that in four to five years these people will be store managers for us," he said.
He said there are two major qualities they look for in graduates.
"We want people with energy and a strong set of leadership skills. We don't manage people, we lead them," he said, adding that they primarily seek people with business related degrees but have people working for Target with all kinds of degrees - history, math, education, and from other fields.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi students Seamus Nelson, a junior majoring in communication and Heather Hernandez, a senior majoring in English, were among 200 students expected to attend from other universities, many in bus shuttles arranged by UTPA. Students from Texas A&M-Kingsville, The University of Texas-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and South Texas College also attended.
"I'm still scoping out all the companies that are here and then I'm really going to focus in on a few," said Nelson, who like Hernandez was seeking a public relations/marketing position. They were both impressed with the large number of companies represented.
A familiar face was among many representatives recruiting engineers for Boeing. Victor Reyes, a UTPA graduate in mechanical engineering, was one of the top graduates and one of the youngest graduates in history from the university at the fall 2005 commencement. He and his brother Mario, also a 2005 graduate in the same field, accepted jobs as manufacturing engineers in Boeing's Renton, Wash. facility. Reyes was among many recruiters from a number of companies at the expo that were UTPA alumni.
"Communication is really important. Students should network more - practice at it. You get good by doing it," he said. He also advised students to "know what you want and what you are interested in."
Reyes has just started an online master's program paid by Boeing in aerospace engineering. His response to what his future goals are was simple.
"I want to keep learning," he said.
Many other companies also were recruiting engineering students and graduates. According to Shell Oil representative Johnny Tristan, an emergency response technician in the Health and Safety Department, Shell was particularly looking for graduates in chemical, mechanical or geoscience engineering but any degrees were welcomed. For current students, he said, Shell offers many internship and scholarship opportunities.
The company has a diverse workforce and has locations in 134 companies Tristan said.
"The door is open to you, just come in. We have mentors for new employees that come in and networking opportunities for them. I want to get as many people we can from this area," he said.
Recruiters from Raytheon were also looking for students majoring in mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineering and computer science and interested in full-time positions and co-ops.
Veronica Molina, from Edinburg graduated from UTPA with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. She is now a quality engineer at Raytheon.
"We are looking for someone who is well rounded and has leadership and communication skills. We want to hire people who have work experience and are dedicated to their work," Molina said.
Ivan Zapata, who is a UTPA junior majoring in manufacturing engineering, said he plans to pursue an internship with Raytheon that he heard about in one of his classes.
"By getting an internship with Raytheon, I could work my way up and be successful. Manufacturing engineering is something that I enjoy so I would like a career in this field," he said.
Aaron Cortez, a May 2006 UTPA graduate from Edinburg with a degree in marketing, was searching for job openings in a variety of areas - sales, promotions, distribution, statistics or management. He has participated since graduating in a short internship and was talking to some of the smaller, more business-related companies at the expo.
He had some advice for current students.
"I regret that I never went to the little seminars that Career Services offered like ... we'll do your résumé for you, we'll show you how to dress, or we'll show how to have a meal. Students should take advantage of those things," he said.
Only attending their first career fair in spring 2006 at UTPA, Proctor & Gamble Company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio has already hired two graduates according to John Haljak, product supply engineering in Research and Development. He said the quality of students from UTPA has been excellent but was hoping to see more mechanical and electrical engineering graduates attend.
Proctor & Gamble also holds a technical summer camp for a week at their headquarters for those who don't get offered a full internship. At the end of that week, those students can interview for a job next summer.
Another UTPA graduate sent to recruit was Carlos Chavez, a Walgreens store manager in Harlingen, who earned his bachelor's degree in 1998 in international business. He was the former president of the Forum of International Relations and Business Affairs and a member of the Accounting Society.
"Walgreens opens a new store every 16 hours and we need store managers. About 80 percent of all of the people we hire for stores in the Rio Grande Valley are graduates from UTPA. We offer an internship program where students can gain experience. We encourage students to get an internship because people who have a degree and experience are the ones who are more likely to get hired," Chavez said.
Patrick H. Johnson, operations manager and director of business development of Gary W. Lambert Company said this year was his company's first year to be involved with HESTEC. The company hired a UTPA graduate a semester ago and was impressed by her performance.
"The UTPA graduate has been an asset to us. Her job performance and knowledge inspired us to recruit heavily at the University. We heard that the University has a terrific accounting department and auditing teams and we want to target these students. We are currently looking for individuals with a solid grasp in finance and accounting as well as a working knowledge with computers and communication skills," Patrick said.
There are many success stories that have come out of this event Reyes said. The Government Accountability Office hired eight students out of last year's HESTEC Career Expo - five are employed in Washington, D.C. and three in Dallas. Proctor & Gamble Corporation took an intern over the summer and were so impressed with that student, Reyes said, that they signed up for the HESTEC expo for the first time this year.
"The flow of the students coming in is exceptional and the quality of students is high. The exhibitors are pleased with how they are dressed and how they are marketing themselves. Our students are prepared and asking the right questions," Reyes said.
Arturo Alvarez, who will soon graduate in May 2007 with a degree in mechanical engineering, has participated in a lot of research in materials science with Dr. Karen Lozano while at the University, and especially attracted to two companies at the expo.
"Kraft Foods is an excellent company with a lot of engineers all over the world. They came here looking for diversity," he said, but also indicated he liked Southwest Research Institute's location in San Antonio, which is closer to his Edinburg family and friends. He said he was looking for a company that would support his desire to continue his education and research.
"I want to continue my education and get my graduate degree so one of the primary things I am looking for is a company that is going to be around a long time and will support me as I go through graduate school," Alvarez said. Alvarez said he was excited to have a degree in a field where he has options.
"I have worked very hard. I'm glad I studied all those late nights for the grades that you want. It's all worth it in the end. We (UTPA) have a lot of good students here, a lot of diversity and talent here," he said.