Dressed for success and with their résumés in hand, more than 2,000 college students attended The University of Texas-Pan American's annual Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Career Fair at the University campus.
More than 90 companies and organizations were in attendance to inform students about their businesses and products, as well as accept applications for internships and full-time employment. Companies such as IBM, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, GE Energy, Cisco Systems, Weber Aircraft, LLC and many more participated in the career fair and a chance to get to know, recruit and hire some of South Texas' most motivated students.
"This new system help alleviate any long lines," said Velinda Reyes, director of UTPA's Office of Career Services. "We were happy that we were able to implement this new system, which shows how beneficial technology can be and there's no better place to do so than HESTEC."
Vanessa Reyna, who is pursuing a master's in mechanical engineering at UTPA, said she was representing Raytheon at the career fair because she was an intern with the company last summer. Raytheon has hired more than 100 students since it started recruiting at the University in 1999.
Reyna said the key to getting an internship is persistence and having a well-balanced résumé.
"I recommend that students get involved with as many organizations as they can while in school and participate in undergraduate research too," Reyna said. "Companies don't just only care about GPA, although they do look at that. Take advantage of all the opportunities available because it's really important to show that you are going to be a dedicated employee."
During her internship, the Edcouch-Elsa native worked in the materials verification and materials analysis labs of Raytheon in Arizona.
"I tested different materials found in missiles to make sure they were up to specification," Reyna said. "My biggest piece of advice would be to not give up when applying for internship opportunities if you don't get accepted the first time."
Greeting many of the company recruiters and representatives present not long after its 10 a.m. starting time, Dr. Edwin LeMaster, dean of the UTPA College of Science and Engineering, said he was gratified to see the expo already "shoulder to shoulder with students."
"That means that the employers are going home with résumés and going to be hiring our kids," he said. "Many of the employers who have hired our students have told me that they are very pleased with the strong work ethic, the preparation and the company loyalty that our students exhibit. We have a good thing going here."
Marlen Ramirez, project manager with Northrop Grumman who received a master's in manufacturing engineering from UTPA, said she enjoyed coming back to the Valley to talk to students and said the advice she had been sharing with them throughout the day, was that their hard work should continue as they start their career search.
"You work really hard and really long and you know how to do homework, now you have to do one more step and that is - do your homework about the company and about salaries before you apply," Ramirez said. "I think UTPA students offer companies a good work ethic. We grew up working while we were going to school and I think that makes us very hard working and very dedicated."
Ramirez said the quality of education she received at UTPA was top notch.
"This is something I didn't realize until I got out into the workforce and started comparing and realized that I knew just as much, if not more, than people who attended other prestigious universities," Ramirez said.
Carlos Gomez, a native of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico and a UTPA junior majoring in mechanical engineering, was clad in his best business attire intending to find an internship or coop opportunity in his field of study.
"My goal is to work for a company where I can apply the knowledge that I learn at the University - somewhere where I can grow with the company and where I can keep on learning new stuff. After I have experience, I hope I would be able to get a better position within that company," said Gomez, who was particularly interested in working for one of the automobile companies.
He said the opportunity to work in an internship or coop gives a student a chance to learn more about their career choice.
"You get to learn what the real job is - what it is like to be inside the company. Also, it helps you choose what area in mechanical engineering you might like and ones you don't like," he said.
He said he was impressed with the career expo's organization and size.
"I think it is growing - I see more companies each year than in previous years," he said.
UTPA Alumnus and Electrical Engineer for IBM, Julio A. Maldonado said his company has been recruiting UTPA students at HESTEC career fairs since its establishment seven years ago. According to him, IBM is interested in all majors and welcomes students with majors outside the engineering and science fields.
"We're looking for a lot of good students that have some previous experience; we have all kinds of majors anywhere from accounting to electrical engineering to computer science. We're looking for pretty much everything... I think it's a great opportunity, I mean, I graduated from UTPA and this is how I got my job," Maldonado said.
Maldonado believes that his previous experience and degree in electrical engineering from UTPA landed him the job he has today, and encourages UTPA students to be confident when approaching an employer.
"[I would tell them to] be confident when they come up and talk to us, present themselves well and show us their good attributes," Maldonado said.
HESTEC 2008 continues Saturday, Sept. 27 from 4-9 p.m. with HESTEC Community Day at the UTPA campus. The Expo features celebrated actors, educational presentations, interactive exhibits and live musical performances by internationally recognized musicians. For more information, visit www.hestec.org or call 956/381-3361.