A microcosm of the Manistee community — from its business landscape to its future workforce — was under one roof on Thursday for the 10th annual Business and Career Expo at the Little River Casino Resort.
For the third straight year, the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce — host of the expo — partnered with Launch Manistee to bring nearly 400 high school students from around the county to the event.
“We look at this partnership as a great opportunity to include our county’s high school students,” said Mary Ann Behm, program coordinator of Launch Manistee, an initiative designed to support the success of Manistee County students from childhood through adulthood. “We had students — mainly juniors and seniors — come from all six high schools (in the county), and they were just so positive and engaged.
“They spent a lot of time at each booth, shaking hands and speaking professionally. And the businesses I’ve spoken to have been extremely positive about having the students here,” she added. “This is such a cool opportunity, not only for our students to look for possible jobs right now, but to see what kind of careers are available in Manistee County.”
The expo featured representatives from nearly 50 businesses or organizations from across the county, who met with students in the morning and then the general public in the afternoon.
Since its inception in 2007, the event has evolved from a business-to-business showcase to a more interactive experience for participating organizations and the public alike, now with an emphasis on job/career opportunities for the community’s current and future workforce.
“The expo will always have that business-to-business aspect,” said Stacie Bytwork, president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, “and it’s still a great opportunity to showcase your product or your service — show what your business is all about and what it does for the community — but we’ve added the career side of it, because workforce has been a concern across all of Northern Michigan.
“We want to make sure we’re out in front of that and help our employers connect with the right employees in the community, whether it’s for full time employment, part time, or even seasonal work, internships and volunteer opportunities.”
Many businesses/organizations represented on Thursday were returning expo participants, but they were joined by nearly 15 newcomers.
Of the expo’s participating businesses and organizations, employment opportunities consisted of 329 full time positions (some of which were stationed outside of Manistee County), 84 part time jobs, 285 volunteer opportunities and nine internships.
“I know a lot of volunteer positions were filled and some of the students brought their resumes, which hopefully helps get the ball rolling to fill some of those open jobs,” Bytwork said.
This year’s expo was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital, West Shore Bank and West Shore Community College.