Future Work Force Career Fair Gives Eighth-Graders Early Start on Job Hunting

Article excerpt

Brandon Chatani looked like an excited teenager, talking fast and scribbling furiously into a notebook while curiously watching the flurry of activity around him.

In fact, Chatani is a teenager. The 14-year-old was one of thousands of eighth-graders to attend a job and career fair yesterday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in downtown Jacksonville.

About 60 companies and schools set up booths to pitch their future jobs, taking the line that it's never too early to start reaching out to the workforce of tomorrow.

Chatani, who plans on going to a local magnet high school and then on to college to study medicine, liked what he saw. He attends Darnell Cookman Middle School.

"It's to get us interested in what's out there," Chatani said after chatting with a representative from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. "A lot of students do not know what to do. They're clueless."

Monica Halbritter, the chairman of Career World 2000, hopes the career fair gives teenagers a clue about their options after they graduate from high school. This was the fifth year of the two-day event, partially sponsored by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Duval County School Board and investment firm Merrill Lynch.

"We want to expose them to businesses that will allow them to choose a career path," Halbritter said. "It gives the students a better opportunity to find out where they fit, and where their interests are."

Halbritter said about 8,000 eighth-graders from Duval, Clay and Baker counties attended the fair, as well as some home-schooled students. The teenagers were assigned to interview representatives from three companies -- operations including Winn-Dixie, America Online and the Musician Associations of Jacksonville -- and write an essay about what they learned. …