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Patrick Barbour and Payton Wandzy, seniors at Bellows Falls Union High School in Westminster, talk to Jonathan Bialek, director of manufacturer at Sonnax, during the Career Fair.

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Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s Pipelines and Pathways Program hosted a Career Fair at Bellows Falls Union High School, in Westminster, Vt., on Friday, June 3, 2022.

WESTMINSTER — Close to two dozen area employers filled Holland Gymnasium on Friday morning, hoping to interest Bellows Falls Union High School students in what they do.

Some took a direct approach, with an appeal-to-the-stomach, by setting out fresh cider doughnuts and candy to attract the students to hear about the good pay and benefits at Long Falls Paperboard in Brattleboro.

Josh Crowther at Long River said the starting pay is $19.28 an hour, and there is unlimited overtime. “We’re looking for another 20 people,” he said.

Others, such as LaValley’s Building Supply, had a cache of free hats at the fair.

All wanted to talk to the juniors and seniors at the school about jobs and careers, as businesses cope with an economy that is worker-friendly and has left them short-staffed.

“People are hurting for people,” was the refrain, and many employers had not just summer jobs, but long-term jobs, as well.

An informal survey of the businesses showed most listed starting pay for inexperienced workers at $18-plus an hour.

Terrigenous, a Chester landscape architecture firm, attracted a group of students interested in the firm’s large drone and the tech behind its design work.

A table held an array of the different stone hammers that are the major tools of the business of installing stone walls and patios.

According to Tuck Wunderle, it was the drone that drew the most interest.

Terrigenous is involved with BF Trades, a new nonprofit group that is working with area businesses and schools to attract students to the trades.

Mike Stack, the founder of BF Trades, said not all students are headed to college, with many not wanting to shoulder the enormous student debt that comes with college in most cases.

Stack said the trades, such as plumbing and electricians, will always be needed.

At the Cota & Cota table, Mona Williams, who works in human resources at the plumbing, heating and fuel oil company, was talking about the apprenticeship program Cota & Cota offers to its young hires.

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Those apprenticeships can lead to six-figure salaries, she said.

“We need to push the trades,” said Williams, who said the company will pay for the training of its employees so they become licensed and master plumbers.

Founded in 1941, “We’re local in every way,” she said.

The students who flocked to the Cota & Cota table often had a personal connection — their parents worked there. But Williams said the student recruits often tell her, “’We want to work with our hands,’” she said.

Also looking to recruit students both for summer jobs and full-time employment after graduation was Anne Hill from Hubbard Farms of Walpole, N.H.

Not a farm in the traditional sense, Hubbard is a research and development firm for the poultry business, developing chicken. They don’t sell eggs, they don’t sell chicken, Hill said; they sell genetics.

Hubbard said the firm currently has 120 employees and would like to hire 55 to 60 new employees. Starting pay is $16 an hour, with hiring bonuses, for full and summer workers.

Kristy Betit of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. helped organize the job fair, and she was handing out doughnuts to students as they dropped off completed surveys.

Betit runs the group’s “Pipelines and Pathways” program, which connects high school students with potential careers.

Not every graduating senior, she said, “has their next step in place.”

The job fair, she said, will help those students. Too often, she said, students don’t realize what jobs are out there.

Students were recently quizzed, she said, and the answers she got were jobs making pizza or working at a convenience store.

“There is so much more,” she said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.