The University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu welcomed more than a thousand high school freshmen last week on campus for a career expo presented by the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Kamehameha Schools, the Hawai‘i Department of Education, and UH West O‘ahu.
About 1,300 ninth graders from James Campbell and Kapolei high schools attended the 3rd annual Campbell-Kapolei (CK) Student Career Expo, held on Oct. 28 on campus, where students had the opportunity to interview and explore professions with almost 70 employers from businesses and organizations representing different career fields.
“These businesses come together to represent industry pathways for students to determine if those careers would be a good fit for them in the future,” said Kiran Polk, Executive Director of the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce. “Students interviewed employers from at least three career fields of their choice and had the opportunity to engage with many industry professionals.”
The CK Student Career Expo was an exciting opportunity for students to equip and empower themselves to identify and pursue their passion in life, Kapolei High School principal Wesley Shinkawa said in a statement to the student participants.
Shinkawa added, “Thank you to our community and business partners for educating and supporting our CK students as they further understand themselves and career options, gain meaningful experiences, and begin to craft their postsecondary plans.”
The expo was also a good chance for students to practice necessary skills of communication and professionalism, said Marites Galamgam, Academy Coordinator at Campbell High School.
“Hopefully, they learned a lot about what it takes to become postsecondary- and career-prepared before graduation, both from the business partners and the UH West O‘ahu programs,” Galamgam said.
Among the freshmen who attended was Evette, a Campbell High School student.
“It was very informative and I had an enjoyable time getting to know the people and (visiting) the booths,” she said. “It helped me learn more about myself and all my interests, and what career path I want to get into when I get older.”
UH West O‘ahu has ‘critical role’
“We are really excited to have this event back in person on campus after a two-year break,” said Dr. Lokelani Kenolio, Director of Enrollment Services at UH West O‘ahu.
Kenolio said it was wonderful to see all the participating students dressed in their professional wear, ready to explore potential career pathway areas. She noted that for many of these ninth graders, the event was their first time on a college campus.
“Bringing students on campus to connect with our faculty, staff, and University community is the first step in welcoming students to the college experience,” Kenolio said. “We are thrilled about planting the higher education seed early with our local Campbell and Kapolei students.”
She continued, “As the University of Hawai‘i campus in the students’ backyard, West O‘ahu has a critical role to contribute to the educational pipeline of growing our future leaders and workforce members.”
As a partner in the CK Student Career Expo, UH West O‘ahu is part of the event’s planning, development, and implementation team. Kenolio noted that more than 65 UH West O‘ahu student leaders, staff, and faculty helped out on the day of the event by greeting students, sharing the UH West O‘ahu programs, guiding impromptu campus tours, setting up and cleaning up, and more.
Kapolei Chamber ‘bridging the gap’
The inaugural CK Student Career Expo in 2018 was the first of its kind in Hawai‘i and the Kapolei Chamber leads the effort with its partners to help students explore career options.
“The expo occurs with intention just before the ninth graders confirm their career academy selection,” Polk said. “Students then have the opportunity to explore and learn more about their selected career pathway during the 10th through 12th grades through internships and mentorships. The Chamber hopes to engage more of our businesses to offer these work-based learning opportunities as a follow-up to the expo.”
The high schools engage in preparation for the career expo led by the teachers leading up to the event. Using a helpful expo booklet and insert of participating employers provided before the event, the students are able to prepare to interview the businesses and organizations at the expo.
“This concept was modeled after an expo in Nashville, Tenn., involving an entire school district,” Polk said. “I think it is key that we donʻt work in ‘silos,’ and the Kapolei Chamber is bridging the gap to bring the students together with the businesses in one place similar to the expo concept that was orchestrated in Nashville.”
In 2023, the Kapolei Chamber plans to expand the CK Student Career Expo to serve other west side high schools, including those on the Wai‘anae Coast, Polk said.
Polk added that the CK Student Career Expo is part of Kapolei Chamber’s West O‘ahu Works (W.O.W.) Education and Workforce Development initiative; UH West O‘ahu Chancellor Maenette Benham is the Chair of the Education and Workforce Development Committee.
West O‘ahu Works encompasses various aspects of career exploration, work-based learning, and workforce development. Through the W.O.W. initiative, the Kapolei Chamber works in collaboration with employers, educators, and job training programs to prepare students for higher education and/or develop a 21st century workforce.
“The Chamber supports local efforts in West O‘ahu to assist in youth mentoring, internship, and employment opportunities,” Polk said.