Columbia College-Imperial and partners put on ‘Career Connect’ Expo_2

Event coordinator Guillermo “Willy” Salgado readies for the Columbia College-Imperial Career Expo to be held on Thursday, May 25, at the Imperial Valley Mall in El Centro.

EL CENTRO – In one of the first big job fair-type events locally since the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia College-Imperial and partnering agencies Imperial Valley College, and America’s Small Business Center (SBDC) California are teaming up to bring Valleyites a “Career Connect” Expo on Thursday, May 25, here at the Imperial Valley Mall.

The networking and job seekers’ event will bring together 50 exhibitors who will have resource tables for their respective companies in order for locals to make direct connections with potential employers. The exhibitors will be local employers and entities that span various job sectors such as retail and customer service, law enforcement, education, business, renewable energy, utilities and more, Columbia College-Imperial Program Coordinator and event coordinator, Guillermo “Willy” Salgado, said.

Salgado said trusty employers such as the Imperial Irrigation District, Imperial Valley College (IVC), the Imperial County Office of Education and others will be on-hand as well as more “elusive” entities such as In N Out, Geo Group Detention Center, Controlled Thermal Resources and others who will also be present.

Salgado said that while all the exhibitors may not be hiring on the spot or have job openings, networking and staying in contact with the businesses may lead to a job opening in the future for attendees.

“It’s not a hiring event or career fair; it’s an expo,” Salgado said. “You can go meet the decision makers, the hiring reps … so it’s kind of like a blend between educating locals on job opportunities and career paths, and getting the training institutions to get ready for these job postings, and the traditional higher Ed paths.”

“I kind of visualize it like a Las Vegas trade show,” Salgado said. “If you’ve been to one of those … (in those) you go and talk to the manufacturers and strike deals with them, maybe not today or tomorrow or next week, but eventually you shake the hand .. and get an inside scoop on the situation.”

“It’s the same thing here,” Salgado said. “Go to the employer (table where) the HR rep is there, talk to them, shake their hand firmly, look them in the eyes and practice that ability because everyone needs to practice those abilities since we all need that ability in the workplace.”

“And hey, take their email,” Salgado said. “You may leave with 50 emails and contacts, and then eventually develop relationships, apply, and follow up with them as you should.”

Salgado said his dual background in workforce development and his love for event planning and marketing came together to help him get the ball rolling on the event, bringing together the various partners, employers, and some workforce development entities who don’t collaborate together very often if at all.

“Everyone has had an itch for an event since COVID because it’s been a while and said ‘it’s about time’ and ‘I’ve been thinking about a job fair so let’s do it,’” he said. “It’s been long overdue for a lot of people.”

The event hopes to serve the community as a networking spot for job seekers, local employers, entrepreneurs, educators, career coaches, counselors, career guides and job developers, as well as helping the job seekers – with a special emphasis on targeting students, Salgado said – become educated on today’s labor market and job opportunities, according to a social media post.

“The idea is not misleading everyone but leaving the door open for everyone,” Salgado said. “Everyone will have a different level of interest in terms of recruiting but everyone should be recruiting. It’s free and for the community.”

In addition to IVC and the SBDC, various agencies came together in support to make the event happen, including San Diego State University, Food4Less, Pioneers Memorial Hospital, El Centro Regional Medical Center, the California Highway Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to an event flyer.

“It’s a solid roster we have,” Salgado said of the exhibitors.

Salgado also said the event, in part, serves as a way for Columbia College-Imperial to get their name out to the public.

“In general people don’t know that we exist,” Salgado said of Columbia College-Imperial, as Salgado is the lone Columbia College representative in the Imperial Valley, currently being housed within IVC’s Counseling Center due to their share-agreement.

“I think we’ve got a good blend of everything represented,” Salgado said of the event. “We want to open up all pathways of developing your abilities,” he said.

The Columbia College-Imperial Career Connect Expo & Hiring Event will be held tomorrow, Thursday, May 25, from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Imperial Valley Mall’s food court and adjacent walkway areas. The Imperial Valley Mall is located at 3451 Dogwood Road in El Centro.

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