Jumpstarting Career Success

December 6, 2022

Eighth-grade Career Exploration Fair sparks knowledge and connections with potential employers.

Alignment and momentum begin early in Shelbyville-Bedford County’s talent pipeline. Case in point: Recently, more than 650 Bedford County eighth-graders had the opportunity to identify their aptitudes and interests, and to explore local opportunities with nearly two dozen employers across 11 different economic sectors at Bedford County’s annual Career Exploration Fair.

“More than half of Bedford County students enter the workforce immediately after high school graduation,” notes Shane Hooper, CEO of Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership. “That makes it essential that the high school education and training they receive is effective, rigorous, and aligned to both industry needs and student abilities. And that requires an early start.”

Prior to the Career Fair, students took an aptitude test which helped them to identify how their areas of talents and interests fit into the employer needs in Bedford County, specifically the top three sectors where they might enjoy success.

A fair shake: Soft skills take center stage.

While identifying the potential for technical skill is critical for high school curriculum selection, the development of soft skills such as teamwork and communication are equally strategic in today’s workplace, regardless of sector. That’s why event preparation also included exercises that allowed the students to practice introductions. The students were then challenged to introduce themselves to at least three employers at the Fair.

“These introductions bring students into the adult world of employment in a way that sharpens their communication skills and gives them confidence,” Hooper explains.

Participating employers were also impressed. As one noted, “Many children shy away from conversing with adults for one reason or another. Students stepping up to shake hands and introducing themselves allowed us to have meaningful conversations with them.”

By the end of the Fair, students had a better understanding of the opportunities that await them after graduation—and some of the ways they could assure their own success.

Driving opportunity: A robustly diversified economy

“At our annual Career Fairs, students are always impressed when they see the breadth and depth of opportunity available right here in Shelbyville-Bedford County,” Hooper says. “And this year was no different.”

Eleven different sectors were represented by leading companies, including:

  • Advanced manufacturing: Marelli, Albea America and Musgrave Penceil.
  • Distribution and Transportation: Newell Brands and Titan Transfer.
  • Healthcare: Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital, Middle Tennessee Pharmacy Services.
  • Business Administration: Nesco Resources.
  • Banking and Finance: First Community Bank and Heritage South Community Credit Union.
  • Education and Training: Bedford County Schools, TN College of Applied Technology and Georgia Career Institute.
  • Social Services: Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Public Safety: Shelbyville Police Department, Shelbyville Fire Department, Bedford County EMS and Bedford County Fire Department.
  • Fabrication: Cooper Steel.
  • Utilities: United Communications.
  • Economic Development: Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership.

After the event, students expressed excitement about their future, excitement that Hooper echoes. “The Career Fair sparks meaningful focus and conversations, which fits the Partnership’s broader vision for workforce development. We want to provide educational opportunities in tune with industry needs by serving as a connection point facilitating engagement between students, educators and industry.”


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