“How many of you are interested in going into the health industry? I know some of you are, because I recognize some of your faces,” said Marcus Parence, of Redwood’s Good Samaritan Society, to a room full of area high school juniors.

“How many of you are interested in going into the health industry? I know some of you are, because I recognize some of your faces,” said Marcus Parence, of Redwood’s Good Samaritan Society, to a room full of area high school juniors.

Parence was one of many panelists at the Redwood Gazette’s career expo set up for 11th graders from throughout the region.

The event, held at the Redwood Area Community Center on Wednesday, brought nearly 500 students together to hear local business leaders give real-world advice about jobs, and what employers are looking for.

All students were asked their preferences beforehand, and given personalized schedules guiding them to their favored work sessions.

The sessions included:

• Business Management and Administration

• Human Services

• Health Science and Technology

• Engineering, Manufacturing, and Technology

• Arts, Communications, and Information Systems

• Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

Lisa Drafall, publisher of the Redwood Gazette, was the main organizer of the event. She stated, “One of the biggest issues in today’s job markets is employers are in need of very specific types of employees, and students sometimes pursue careers that don’t meet that demand.

“This expo is an attempt to inform students what jobs our region needs, and what opportunities exist that they might not be aware of.”

Some of the Redwood area’s biggest employers — including Jackpot Junction Casino and Hotel, Artex, and House of Print — helped sponsor the event financially, and / or sent representatives to speak to the juniors

Among the sponsors were Monsanto, Farmers Union Industries, SouthPoint Federal Credit Union, Good Samaritan Society of Redwood Falls, the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative.

After speaking with the students, panelist Scott Thaden, of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Council, said he was impressed with many of the questions the students asked.

Most of the discussions started off with the panelists telling a bit about themselves, then going off on tangents as students asked questions.

During the arts and media session, for example, Paul Hunter Zaid of the Redwood Gazette told of his long journey in a variety of jobs and communities before coming back to the Redwood area.

When he was finished, co-panelist Scott Geyer, of House of Print, laughed and said, “My experience has been almost the exact opposite of Paul’s,” and then he told about the advantages and stresses of staying in the same job for the past 26 years.

During the ag and natural resources discussion, Rachel Dannewitz of Monsanto told about how her high school fascination with science eventually led to her finding a career in the local ag industry.

 As Tuesday’s event was winding down, Drafall said she after seeing the response from the speakers and students, she is definitely open to holding another career expo for juniors next year.

Every year, a new crop of 17 year olds will need to hear it, and the area’s employers will need to get their important messages out.