Is Aroostook’s workforce ready for the class of 2015? In a word, yes!

Change is a scary thing.  It causes chaos, unplanned snags, and then something amazing happens.  Many times we realize that the “change” we grumbled about made things better.  In 45 days time, students all over Aroostook will experience a massive change in their lives, and so will we.  A new batch of energetic young people will be released into our workforce looking to change the world.  I say, let’s get going!

Last week Aroostook Aspirations teamed up with UMPI and UMFK to bring about a little change.  We co-hosted the very first Reverse Career Fair in Aroostook’s history, and I suspect in Maine’s history.  In this reversed version of the traditional career fair, students set up booths, print resumes, have business cards, and are ready with an elevator pitch for why employers should hire them.

Students were ready to pitch themselves into a position at Thursday's Reverse Career Fair

Students were ready to pitch themselves into a position at Thursday’s Reverse Career Fair

I wasn’t able to meet every student during the event, I spent much of my day checking in the 40 or more employers who came to meet the students and chatting with them about the the many challenges that face Aroostook. The Reverse Career Fair provided hope. The employers raved all day about the caliber of students at this event.  UMPI and UMFK were represented so well.  The youth and energy of this fair was incredible.  I enjoyed speaking with the students and with the employers, and seeing eyes opened on both sides of those booths.  Students realized there were job, great jobs, in Aroostook County, and employers had the chance to fully appreciate how awesome our young people are and what they will bring to Aroostook’s workforce.

As great as this event was, it was also change.  Changing something when it is steeped in tradition is difficult, and proving to others that the change is necessary is also often wrought with obstacles.  That wasn’t the case with the Reverse Career Fair.  Employer and students came to that day ready to do one thing: network.  These students will bring new ideas to their companies.  They will bring fresh outlooks, recent education, and tons of energy.  They are assets to our County, each and every one.

Some of Aroostook's best and brightest young people.

Some of Aroostook’s best and brightest young people.

Our young people are the greatest resource we have.  They are the leaders of tomorrow.  They are future CEO’s, teachers, researchers, and managers. But, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  Most of us know that the young people are the future of Aroostook, what we may not realize is how much they need us to help them succeed.

When Ray and Sandy Gauvin decided to transition their initial scholarship program to Aroostook Aspirations Initiative, it was a challenge.  There is no program in Aroostook County quite like AAI.  We are new; we are innovative, and we are unique.  We represent change, and that change can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be.  Our young people want to stay in Aroostook.  I hear it time and time again. If they want to stay what stops them? They believe that to be successful they have to leave Aroostook, and that simply is not true.  Not only is our workforce ready to receive our fresh young graduates, they NEED them desperately.  Our workforce percentages are too low.  We cannot sustain our current economic foundation without growing our workforce.  We have to be better Aroostook.  We have to make sure our children know that they can be successful here.  That there are hundreds of examples of men and women who didn’t just achieve success, they achieved tons of it.  In every community in Aroostook there is that one person who “made it.”  But for every one, there are  a hundred more.  We don’t tell the stories often enough.  We don’t share the successes enough, and because we are so humble as a County, our children don’t fully appreciate how amazing this place really is.  They need YOUR help, and so do we.

We work each and every day on encouraging young people to stay in Aroostook County.  We’ve set up a program to work with college students, starting with freshman year, preparation, guidance, supporting and mentoring systems are all in place.  We guide the leaders of Aroostook’s tomorrows each and every day.  And you can help us.  You can help us grow, allow us to have valuable and powerful learning weekends, help us celebrate community and family, and give more Aroostook young people a chance at a college degree, a chance at a great life, and a chance to raise their children close to their own families.  Your support can help us support more of our talented youth as they choose Aroostook as their home.  Help us, help them, help Aroostook.  

A huge thank you to Tammy Delisle from UMFK and Nichole Fournier from UMPI.  They partnered with AAI for the Reverse Career Fair, and I don’t think we could have asked for better partners! A huge thank you as well to Jordan Madore, our Intern Hub of Aroostook Coordinator who planned and implemented an amazing day, and last but by far no means least, thank you to the students and employers who made the Reverse Career Fair 2015 so awesome.  We are making the County strong, together!