Our partner school, Beaver County Career and Technical Center, has a new initiative to engage local school students with employers to learn about future career options and the benefits of vocational schools. As Director of Business Administration at Questeq, I was honored to be the first professional speaker in this series of events.
Having worked with BCCTC in different capacities over the past 10 years, I have learned how important the vocational school is in preparing students for their futures using skill-based learning. I was never introduced to the option of attending a vocational school when I was in high school, and I wonder if my career path would’ve been different if I was able to hone my love of cooking with BCCTC’s culinary arts program. I addressed this with the visiting students from Central Valley SD and how my career path has been carved out over the years. In addition, I shared the potential technology careers available to students at Questeq and the importance of giving back to our local communities and beyond.
It was a great experience to connect with students and give them the power to start thinking about their futures now rather than later.
You can read more about the speaker series by visiting the BCCTC website.
Over eight years ago I had the opportunity to begin conducting mock interviews at the Beaver County Career & Technology Center to help students prepare for the real world. I was introduced to this opportunity by my friend, Renee Digiacomo, who teaches Business Information Systems and she asked me to help. She had the idea of preparing students for the real world by using business leaders she knew to help with the interview process. There are three of us who have been doing the interviews over the years: myself, Director of Business Administration here at Questeq; Deb Gray, owner of Express Professionals; and April McShane, Territory Manager of the Bradford Institute.
Photo courtesy of Beaver County Career & Technology Center
The process of the mock interview goes as follows: the students are first prepped weeks ahead of time with a mock job opening and job description that they must use to prepare for the interview. Next, they work on their resumes, letters of intention, and study the criteria that they will be judged upon during the interview process. While students prepare for their interview, we create score sheets that vary in criteria from proper business attire, resume portfolio, and ability to answer and ask questions. Each student is brought into the classroom where our panel conducts interviews. Once the interviews are completed and scored, we bring the students back in and discuss with them mistakes and give advice on how they can do better. The student with the highest score is awarded the job.
There are so many things the students gain from this; courage and confidence are two that really stand out to me. I remember one incident where our influence on a student was extremely powerful: I was out to dinner and our waitress said that she did a mock interview with me and it helped her get the job that she wanted. She thanked me for all the help we gave her, and it was one of the reasons she beat out the competition. That was a great feeling to hear that she took to heart what she had learned and how the class helped her for the real world. We sometimes see repeat students since they may be sophomores or juniors in previous interviews. It’s fun when they return, and we see the improvements they made from last year.
Through the years I have learned the value of the entire interview process. There is so much competition in today’s job market and it’s extremely important to differentiate yourself and show the employer that you are the person for the job they are offering. Also, it is so important to research the company you want to work for because in the end, the employer wants people committed and enthusiastic to work for their company!
Finally, I would like to add that as a panel of interviewers we are not moderate just because they are students. We are tough in our criticisms and we do that to get the students to think about the reality of their future career path. It is a great teaching tool and I am honored to be a part of it every year!
Questeq looks for many ways to help our customer sites and community. We partnered with a special program this year called The Challenge Program. The Challenge Program has a unique mission of connecting businesses with students, to motivate them to develop solid work habits required to succeed in school and in their future careers. When Questeq became a partner, we chose to work with one of our long-time customer sites, Beaver County Career & Technology Center in Monaca, PA. Jeff Main, Questeq’s CEO, and I participated in 6 assemblies back in September 2016. We demonstrated how students could win monetary prizes if they followed the core principals of The Challenge Program. These principals are Attendance, STEM, Community Service, Academic Improvement and Academic Excellence. Students who achieve in these categories receive cash prizes at the end of the year. There is also one monetary award of $1,000.00 given to the Student of the Year. Students in every district participating in The Challenge Program compete to be named Student of the Year.
Recently we learned that one of the BCCTC students accepted the challenge, focused on the grand prize and in the end, won the 2017 Student of the Year award!
This award is given to a student who shares their story about how The Challenge Program changed their outlook, behavior and attitude. They also need to explain how the business partner helped them overcome obstacles to begin a positive path to a better future. This award is given at a special event called the Crystal Owl Gala. I attended this gala at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall on April 27, 2017. The BCCTC student was one of the 3 finalists competing for the award. I was overwhelmed with emotion when he was chosen as the 2017 Student of the Year! Sitting with his family and school administrators was a proud moment for me in my 20 years with Questeq. To see how we made a difference in this young man’s life is what makes me love our company and what we do to help our community!
We wrote about our involvement with The Challenge Program earlier this year. You can read The Challenge Program’s official press release here.
Pictured from left to right: Jessica Azur, Questeq Director of Business Administration; Jeff Main, Questeq CEO; Rodney Davis, Questeq Technology Coordinator @ BCCTC; Laura DelVecchio, BCCTC Assistant Administrative Director
The Challenge Program was presented to Questeq over the summer by Joe Oliphant. We were very excited about the opportunity to work with our partner school, the Beaver County Career & Technology Center. Our first event was an interactive assembly for the students at BCCTC and I was really not sure what to expect. The assembly script given to us a month prior to the October kick-off date outlined the format and content of the upcoming presentations. It was an interesting concept but as the kick-off assembly drew closer, I was beginning to worry that the students would not be engaged during the presentation.
On assembly day, we were pleasantly surprised how interactive the students were and how interested they became in the program after each presentation. We participated in six assemblies over the course of the day with over 100 students and faculty members in each session. I enjoyed the chance to work with Questeq’s CEO, Jeff Main on this project. We have the unique dynamic of working together as a brother and sister in our family owned business. While we have been working together for over 15 years, this was the first time we worked together as a team with students in a school setting. Jeff took part in the first half of the assemblies and I presented the second half. During the presentations we explained who we are as Questeq and why we partnered with The Challenge Program. We then were joined by seven student volunteers and Mr. Oliphant for a 25-minute skit. The skit showed how the students could successfully complete The Challenge and stay in the race over the course of the year to win $200.00 prizes and a $1,000.00 prize.
In the end, the students had fun and were motivated to win The Challenge at the end of the school year. We are really excited to present the checks to the winners in the Spring and Fall of 2017 and congratulate them on their achievements!
You can learn more about our partnership with BCCTC and The Challenge Program here. The Beaver County Times also wrote an article about the assembly and program here.
As a breast cancer survivor, I work with a charity very near and dear to my heart called Blessed Bag. The charity was created in 2014 by Kristina Azur Mete after seeing the difficult journey that cancer patients travel in the battle for their lives. There are two types of Blessed Bags, one for adults and one for children. They contain comfort items to help anyone going through a difficult health issue.
Since 2014, the charity has given out over 500 bags nationally. Most recently, a bag was given to a mother of one of our Questeq team members, who was featured in this newspaper article.
If you know someone going through a health battle and would like to give them some comfort and a smile, please contact us with your request for a Blessed Bag.
The charity is currently in need of more bags to share with deserving individuals. If you would like to donate, please click here: http://blessedbag.org/donate.html
The owners of Questeq have graciously agreed to participate in a Questeq charity drive with Blessed Bag. For every dollar donated from a Questeq employee, Questeq will match the donation. At the end of November, Questeq will match dollar-for-dollar the money donated by Questeq employees!
Remember, if you know someone in need of a Blessed Bag, just contact us and I will send one out, no charge at all!