Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas is hosting its first Pathways to Success Youth Career Expo, with more than 100 vendors giving those ages 17-24 a chance to hear from professionals about different career fields.

The event goes from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday at the Waxahachie Civic Center, and attendees can see aspects of the work through interactive, hands-on exhibits and develop a better understanding of the employers located in the Ellis County, Navarro County and Johnson County regions. They can also listen to live music, take pictures in a career-themed photo booth and participate in a panel discussion with some of the area’s leaders in the professional world, said project manager Anthony Moore, who often works with youth for Workforce Solutions.

“When we first started this project, I said, ‘Man, if we could just reach one person and change on person’s life, it would be cool,” Moore said. “But in reality, we want to

touch as many as we can. We’re hoping we will take some of the kids that are on the edge of dropping out of school, encourage them to finish school because of what they’ve seen at the expo and the people they’ve talked to there and the opportunities they see there, so we can see them not only graduate, but get into a career, whether it’s going to a technical school, college or straight into employment. We have all three of those opportunities represented there at the expo.”

Texas State Technical College representatives and Navarro College officials will both have a presence at the event, as will representatives from Tarleton University, Cardinal Glass, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, H-E-B, KBEC radio, Life School, Parkland Community Health Plans, Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Sugar Ridge Winery and the Waxahachie Police Department. Each vendor will have anywhere from one to more than 10 booths to help highlight different career pathways in an area, Moore said.

One of the big questions Workforce Solutions is trying to help individuals answer is whether a certification or a degree is more important in today’s workforce by offering multiple options for potential students to look at. Moore’s response? That’s up to the individual.

“The whole purpose of this is to show them their options because some kids will never, ever go to college because they’re not college material,” Moore said. “And some kids will never go to a trade school. When I went to the different high schools here in Ellis County to talk with the students, I found that some of them want to be doctors, some want to work with the CDC, some want to be lawyers, some want to create skateboard parks. There’s all kinds of stuff out there, not to mention the computer-type things that they were talking about. So, when you look at the different opportunities that are there, we try to make sure that all of them were available, so the kids could see that there are different opportunities, not just college.”

The expo focuses on young adults because some need the reminder and support to push them to pursue any future career possible, Moore said.

“At our program here, one of the things we do here is set goals for them because every kid is different,” Moore said. “They all have different visions and dreams, so we give them assessments to figure out what they do, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, to help them find what they can do, and where they would fit and where they would succeed. Then, we try to help them get that education or get that on-the-job training experience, and this expo is going to basically do the same thing. It’s not just a bunch of colleges out there at a table saying, ‘Here’s my brochure, and call me when you’re ready.’”

He added that even if students don’t find what they’re looking for at the expo, Workforce Solutions offers an orientation at 4 p.m. every Tuesday for those who need more guidance. Workforce Solutions in some cases has even helped students by paying for school and needed materials, Moore said, adding often times people aren’t aware of exactly what resources they offer. With an estimated 52,000 careers in the workforce, Moore said it’s ok to need that extra guidance.

“Most people can’t even name 50 of them, you know?” Moore said. “What we’re trying to do is at least give them a little bit better idea of what their options are.”

He advised that attendees should dress for success and bring a resume with them, a professional first impression can go a long way whether young adults will jump into the career field now or after more education, he said.

For more information on the expo or young adult Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas, visit www.dfwjobs.com or call Moore at 817-695-9177.

“You’re not just going there to see, you’re going to be talking and interacting with those people who do those jobs every day. You’re going to get an opportunity to talk to people through the panel and hear their stories,” said Donna Weston, a Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas board member and senior operations specialist who helped support the expo. “College is not for everyone, and financially, it can be overwhelming. So, we’re even going to have vendors there to tell you how to apply for scholarships, how to do a financial aid form because everybody doesn’t have a parent who can do this. We’re going to introduce all of those options to these young adults, because these young adults may or may not have a support system and we want to be able to help them navigate this process by themselves or with their parents.”