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UH West Oʻahu hosts high schoolers at career expo


Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

The University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu hosted more than 1,300 high school freshmen who explored career opportunities at the Oct. 27 West O‘ahu Student Career Expo, presented by the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Kamehameha Schools, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education, and UH West O‘ahu.

Students from James Campbell, Kapolei, and Wai‘anae high schools; Nānākuli High School and Intermediate; and Island Pacific Academy attended the career expo and interacted with 40 participating businesses and organizations representing various career pathways. Students interviewed industry professionals to explore possible future career paths and skills necessary for future employment.

“We pioneered the first student career expo of its kind in 2018, and we are excited to again host this amazing career exploration for our future workforce,” said Kiran Polk, Executive Director of the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce. “We hope the students can use the interactions with our business community to help them navigate towards the pursuit of their dreams.”

Polk added, “We are excited to provide the opportunity for our students — and our businesses are enriched by investing in our future workforce in this way, too.”

Among the students at the event was Justin, a ninth grader from James Campbell High School who was exploring nursing possibilities.

“This is a really good experience because it’s a good way to open students’ mindset and have them have different doorways to different careers in life,” he said between visiting booths at the expo. “I know some of my friends are unsure what they want to do in life, so I’m hoping that they found something that they’re interested in here.”

Like Justin, Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area Superintendent Sean Tajima commended the West O‘ahu Student Career Expo for helping freshmen make important career decisions in high school, post-secondary, and beyond.

“This is an awesome event for students in the Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area,” said Tajima, who also thanked UH West O‘ahu for hosting the career expo.

“It’s important that our kids step foot on a college campus right in their back yard,” Tajima said. … “For many of them, this is their first time ever stepping foot on a college campus, so we want them to feel comfortable with that experience.”

UH West O‘ahu Chancellor Maenette Benham said the career expo offered ninth graders an opportunity to talk with UH West O‘ahu faculty and students participating at the event, as well, to really understand what it means to go to college.

“It is extremely important that we are here to serve the success of all of our students in this region,” Benham noted.

When the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce launched the first expo in 2018, it was the first of its kind in the state. Pioneering this effort with its partners to help students explore career options is just one element of the Kapolei Chamber’s West O‘ahu Works Education and Workforce Development initiative, according to a press release issued by the Kapolei Chamber.

Through the West O‘ahu Works initiative, the Kapolei Chamber is working as West O‘ahu’s “Career Hub” by working 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.