Elizabeth Villegas and her friend, Araceli Martinez, haven't decided in what discipline they would like to major, but the sophomores attending The University of Texas-Pan American decided to see what their future employment options are at the Career Expo Friday, Oct. 1.
"It's nice to know that there's openings," said Villegas, 20. "You can be majoring in something and you don't know what you can do with that degree. People tell you what ways their company can offer you a job."
UTPA had its annual Career Expo at the Fieldhouse, which featured more than 60 companies and government agencies looking for employees. The career fair coincides with the University's Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week, now in its ninth year.
About 2,000 students from UTPA, The University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas A&M International University in Laredo and other South Texas institutions were expected to visit booths and interview for jobs, said Lourdes Servantes, Interim Director/Associate Director Campus Relations and Technology Management for UTPA.
"It's one of the few times of the year when we can have students come here to the campus and meet with employers in a one-on-one setting, where we bring this many employers into one setting at one time to assist students from all different majors," Servantes said. "It's really provided students with an avenue for them to be able to network and mix with employers."
The University used to host two career fairs: one for science and engineering majors and one of businesses and internships but merged them several years ago and expanded its offerings to help students of all majors find employment, she said.
Some students also had the opportunity to interview with prospective employers that day.
Kester Leochico sat alongside fellow students waiting to be interviewed at the Fieldhouse Friday morning. The 21-year-old senior majoring in electrical engineering planned to meet with representatives from IBM. Leochico said he applied to IBM because of its work with semiconductors.
"I know they do a lot of work on PC processors and that they have effectively designed all the processors that go into all of the current videogame consoles," he said.
He appreciated that the University provided the opportunity for students, including him, to interview with companies on campus.
"It makes things a lot more convenient just being able to interact with the companies and get a feel for what it's like," he said." It's a lot more intimate than if you were to visit some web page. It's not the same as having an actual face to talk to."
Representatives from companies and organizations handed out key chains, water bottles, food samples and other gifts to encourage students to visit their booths and apply for jobs.
Recruiting for the first time at the career expo was Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a worldwide company based in Switzerland with approximately 100,000 employees. Russ Ingram, executive cardiovascular metabolic specialist from the company's South Central Operating Unit in San Antonio, Texas, was primarily recruiting sales people.
"Our sales people have a wide variety of backgrounds, some are teachers by training, some have been in the military and for a fresh college graduate we often talk with biology graduates or marketing or business graduates but we'll talk with anybody who looks like they can enjoy talking with people and have demonstrated an ability to grasp higher level scientific information," he said.
He said the Valley is a very important market for the company.
"There are a lot of people who come here internationally for their health care. The market here in the Valley is in some ways different from other markets in the country so it is very important to have local people who are familiar with local customs, local physicians' offices and local society," he said.
Ingram said he's met many impressive graduates seeking jobs and many of their resumes show they've done other things prior to becoming a student, which reflects the demonstrated maturity his company seeks in their sales force.
"We do hire some 21 or 22-year-old college graduates but on the other hand we would also take a good look at somebody who is 25 years old who has just graduated from college simply because they have done some interesting things before they've gone to college. They've demonstrated that they've gone through college while having to pay some bills, support themselves, work and have a job and that's important for our company," he said.
UT Pan Am alumna Alyssa Pena, who has a degree in business management and will graduate from UTPA's MBA program in December, was checking out a number of companies at the expo, particularly Ford Motor Company and Chevron.
She said she has participated in three internships while in school that she learned about through the career expo during HESTEC that gave her valuable experience. They were with Ford Motor Company in Orlando, Fla., General Mills in Minneapolis, Minn., and C.H. Robinson, a transportation and logistics company in McAllen, Texas. She feels the internships have definitely benefitted her.
She is interested in having a career in human resources.
"There are a lot of programs that many companies here offer for career development and to encourage leadership skills," she said."There is a gold mine here because a lot of the really big companies come. There are opportunities here you don't necessarily get elsewhere."
UTPA alumni and H-E-B employees Enrique Martinez and Richard Escalera said they credit their success with their current employer to the University's Office of Career Services and Career Expo. Both said they landed internships from talking with representatives of the grocery giant during career fairs.
Martinez, who graduated in Spring 2010 with a bachelor's degree in business management, said he is happy to pay back the University that prepared him for his job by helping fellow Broncs find employment with H-E-B.
"I love coming back to the school where they groomed me and giving back to the students because at one point I was in their shoes trying to find out more information like 'How do I get in this program,' and 'What do I need to do,'" he said.
Escalera, who graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in accounting, said he found his career by skipping class.
"Our professor said, 'If you want to go (to the Career Expo), I'm not going to count it as an absence,'" he said. "I came and I talked to two people here and they offered me an internship program."
That 12-week program opened the door to him for a position within the company's human resources department. He and Martinez are now trainees in H-E-B's School of Retail Leadership, which prepares them to become store directors.
Like Martinez, Escalera said he is happy to help his alma mater find internships and employment for its graduates.
"If I can identify somebody and help them grow in their career, that's the end game for me," he said.
Escalante and Martinez urged students seeking jobs to participate in internships, develop strong résumés and to make themselves known to prospective employers.
HESTEC culminates Saturday, Oct. 2 with its Community Day, featuring exhibits including Futurelab, SciGirls and Terri the Robot, as well as several from NASA.
In addition, NASA astronaut Lee Morin, M.D., Ph.D. will make his first visit to the campus. Morin has been with NASA since 1996 and served on the STS-110 Atlantis in 2002. He has logged more than 259 hours in space. Morin is a qualified submarine medical officer and trained flight surgeon.
Community Day will also feature free musical entertainment from Tejano artists Jay Perez, Marco Orozco, Bobby Pulido, and norteño group Duelo, a HESTEC favorite.
For more information, visit http://hestec.utpa.edu.