On June 3, manufacturing recruiters from all over northern Michigan will head to Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway to a different kind of job fair, where employers can count on truly connecting with new talent.

Students at the northern Michigan welding school are wrapping up their 19-week program with an eye on the ultimate prize – a job in the industry.  Resumes and job interviews are part of the school’s employer-focused curriculum, which helps students understand what employers are looking for when it comes to a quality weld…and a quality welder.

After arming the students with such a well-rounded training program, the staff at IAI decided a traditional job fair wouldn’t allow students to show off all they’d learned.

“In a normal career fair environment, recruiters set up tables and collect applications,” explained Tamara Ward, the school’s operations leader. “That’s not very productive for candidates or hiring managers. Students hand over their resumes, talk to an employer for a few minutes, and they don’t really know anything about each other when it’s done.  We wanted to make a better match.”

The IAI team focused on creating a format that would allow employers to see the quality welders their students had become.  In this event, students set up tables featuring all the welds that earned them their qualifications and certifications.  “If employers want to see stick welding in an overhead position, the student can show samples of open root and welds with backers that earned them those specific certifications,” Ward said.

Fabrication projects, completed throughout the course, are also a prominent highlight on student tables.  A hibachi grill project allowed the students to put their SMAW skills to practical use, and those that finished early were encouraged to embellish their final product with additional aesthetic and practical features.  Students also completed 3-D letters using GTAW on 12-gauge stainless steel, a flowerpot using GMAW on 10-gauge stainless, and dice that allowed them to hone their brazing skills.

Jessica Bulmann-Laisure, Director of Human Resources at Bulmann Dock & Lift in Boyne City, Michigan, finds the modifications helpful.  “The talent expos allow employers to connect with difficult-to-find tradespeople and witness more than their talent, but also their personalities, strengths, and opportunities for improvements, all without having to set up an interview,” she said. 

After viewing the welding samples a student has to offer, employers can request a live welding demonstration from the student, further confirming his or her qualifications for a particular position.  IAI’s Talent Expo’s format is flexible in that it allows students to step away at the end of the event to take advantage of this additional one-on-one time.

“Getting the chance to see our students in action can really make a difference for prospective employers,” Ward said, “and that’s definitely a win for our students.”

Industrial Arts Institute has been refining this Talent Expo format for a few years, a showcase event that’s helped drive their 90% post-graduate employment rate.  “Instead of the 30 seconds of face time, they can efficiently assess candidates to see if they’re a fit for open positions,” Ward said.  “The return on their investment of time and resources is good.”

Bulmann-Laisure agrees.  “Every year that Bulmann Dock & Lift has attended Industrial Arts Institutes’ Talent Expo we have been successful in finding quality welders who are eager to learn and ready to work,” she said.  “The skills developed through the institute’s programs really build any candidate into the ideal employee. Every hire we’ve made from these expos have seamlessly blended with our company culture, making students of IAI our number one choice for hiring welders.”

About Industrial Arts Institute 
The Industrial Arts Institute is licensed by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), a Veteran Approved Training Facility and a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization, offering a premier comprehensive welding program that prepares students for successful and rewarding careers in the industry. Most employers will agree that it takes more than talent to excel in the workplace. IAI programs provide students with the support, knowledge and hands-on application to become qualified and employable in the welding industry.  

Mission Statement: To develop and inspire a noble workforce by combining innovative education with time honored training to connect talent with professional skilled trades industries. For more information, visit iaiworks.com.

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