March 11, 2005 – "Get good habits early and you will have good habits for the rest of your life." This was one of the tips a group of high school students heard during a career and jobs skills seminar on Friday in Frederiksted. The seminar was hosted by Rotary West and held in their La Grange headquarters. This was the second time Rotarians hosted a career seminar for high schoolers, but it was the first hosted at the official Rotary West location.
Rotary's Vocational Service committee headed by Deborah Howell organized the one-day seminar for high school students. Howell said the goal of the seminar is to "bridge the generations gap" between young people and employers. "Many business owners are in their 40s and 50s. First time job seekers are often in their early 20s," Howell said. Howell said the way the young people speak and dress can sometimes negatively affect their chance to get a job even if they meet all the other requirements. "I see it all the time," Howell said. "You can be discriminated against because of the way you dress and your mannerisms." Howell, who is the Virgin Islands National Guard chief of staff, has been a Rotarian since 1998.
The seminar topics covered areas Rotarians thought students did not have adequate exposure to. Some of the topics covered were career choices, entry-level skills, resume writing, dressing for success and finance and accounting. "It's not part of the regular curriculum," Howell said. "In ten or twenty years these young people are going to be the leaders in our community. As part of Rotary's goal we try to reach out to the youth; we are giving them some of the tools they need to make it."
About 100 students from St. Croix Central High, Freewill Baptist School and the West Indies Heritage Institute Inc., attended the seminar, which started at 9 a.m. and ended at 2:15 p.m. Breakfast and lunch was provided.
John Abramson, a Rotarian since 2003, was one of the presenters. "We are trying to give the students' information on career counseling and planning," he said. During Abramson's presentation he told the students to "listen now and be successful later," and "build on your skills," to make your mark in this world. Abramson spoke on educational preparedness, social preparedness and physical appearance. Abramson said he put emphasis on physical appearance because once you get into the corporate world, "everybody dresses the same."
Business and professional people from the United States Postal Services, V.I. Energy Office, V.I. Police Department, V.I. National Guard and the V.I. Department of Agriculture addressed the students. Students also received handouts from the participating businesses and other information on test taking, resume writing and dress code survival.
"The reaction of the students to the seminar was good," Rotarian Dorothy McIntosh said. McIntosh, who has been involved in Rotary since 1998, is a retired VI National Guard soldier and member of the Vocational Services committee. McIntosh said the students took notes and were given reference material including Internet research. "The students asked very good questions; that is what we were looking for, their involvement and interest."
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