young women stand together in a rural landscape

Reaching “at risk” kids to fill local jobs

Tony Guidroz, from San Saba, Texas, told me he was shocked when he found out there were 702 kids in the local school district, and more than 400 were considered “at-risk” either because of grades or language barriers. Tony wanted to give them more choices and more chances. So he shared his idea for a Blue Collar Career Fair. Rather than letting grades or language barriers stop kids from applying, employers could connect directly with these kids. 

Tony’s brilliant insight: skip the usual lecture part of the career fair. Make it all hands-on. 

From welding some metal to driving a skid steer loader, kids could try it. That would grab kids’ attention while it also helped employers look beyond “at-risk” status. 

Another career fair story with a hands-on portion came from Jimi Coplen. She participates in a career fair in Knox County, Texas, population: 3,353

“We feature a lot of careers that can be done in rural communities but pay big bucks. But we also feature things such as Marine Biology – which can’t be done anywhere close to here! Turns out, the kids were totally enamored by this career! It opened their eyes to new possibilities.

“Our day brings in about 30 different speakers from 20 different career fields. The kids get to pick…We do it regionally, focusing on small schools that may not get as many opportunities to hear such quality speakers. It is a tough event to pull together, but the benefits are well worth the efforts.”

Some of the hands-on demonstrations included trying on a full haz-mat suit and testing physical therapy tools.

Quick! Go look at the pic of the kid trying the hazmat suit!

Keep shaping a better future for your town,


2/3rds of rural businesses struggle with workforce challenges. Deb and I share more practical steps you can take today in Rural Workforce Trends.