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August 22, 2019

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The Turnaround:

Job fair gives Chaparral students glimpse of market

Chaparral High School Job Fair

Leila Navidi

Students gather around the Paul Mitchell School booth during a job fair at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011.

Chaparral High School Job Fair

Junior Dominic Cardenas, left, checks out a demonstration by instructor Edgardo Rapala of the College of Southern Nevada Transportation Technologies Program during a job fair at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Tuesday, December 6, 2011. Launch slideshow »

This is another in a yearlong series of stories tracking Clark County School District’s efforts to turn around five failing schools.

Vivian Roberts wants a job, but the Chaparral High School senior is entering the worst employment market for teens in decades.

“I know the job market is not the best and not many people will get hired, but you have to keep pushing and pushing until you find a job,” she said Tuesday, taking a break from a job fair at the school.

The fourth of five children, the 18-year-old job seeker needs the money. Her father is an unemployed truck driver. Her mom lives in Southern California. She’s trying to concentrate on her schooling so she can graduate with good enough grades to attend a decent college, but her family needs money, now, and the financial pressures she faces are very adult. “I’m worried (employers) won’t take teenagers very seriously, but many of us need jobs,” she said.

The unemployment rate for Nevada teenagers is nearly 35 percent, the worst figure among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Employment Policies Institute. The healthiest states claim teen unemployment rates of about 25 percent. Just five years ago the national figure stood at 15 percent. The overall unemployment rate for Nevada stood at 13.4 percent in October, the highest in the nation.

Carol Lemay, a 17-year-old senior, shared Vivian’s concerns as the two young women eyed representatives of the two dozen employers and colleges with display tables scattered about the high school gym floor. “It’s hard. A lot of people don’t want to hire a person from high school because I don’t have experience,” she said. “It’s very intimidating. You don’t think you’ll be able to get a job because of the economy.”

Representatives of MGM Resorts International, online retailer Zappos as well as an auto body shop and multiple public and private colleges attended the job fair. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police table had representatives there but no one from the agency’s personnel department. Metro officers used the gathering to connect with students.

In fact, few if any employers at the event were hiring on this day. Instead, several were there to identify hires for spring and summer work. Mandalay Bay was seeking teens to work poolside in the coming months. Zappos, which requires that its employees have at least a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree, was also scouting for talent, particularly interns. “They are the future of Zappos,” said Jacob Palmer, a company recruiter. “A lot of these students don’t know about Zappos. We hope when they graduate high school, they will think about (joining) us.”

Chaparral business instructor Courtney Craig and her students were responsible for organizing the event, which offered the teens a chance to mingle with employers and business professionals, and some teens took advantage of the opportunity. Some dressed professionally: shirts, slacks and ties for the boys; dress suits for the young women.

Devante Moore, 17, embraced the look: white shirt, a dark pullover sweater, dark slacks and loafers. Devante, who is vice president of the Chaparral Chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America, speaks of becoming a landscape architect after attending college, but first he needs a job to help save money for college. He’s willing to help clean hospitals. “I hope to get a job, any job,” he said. “I’m willing to work hard.”

One of the few employers hiring was Par 3 Landscape & Maintenance. Kurtis Hyde, a vice president with the Las Vegas company, said he was drawn to the job fair for a very specific reason. “We’re looking for the next generation of Hispanic workers, the guys who have the same work ethic as their parents,” he said. “We’re looking for Latinos, people who know how to work.”

(Half of the Chaparral’s student body of 2,200 is Hispanic. Twenty percent are black, with another 20 percent white and 10 percent Asian-American and members of other ethnic groups.)

Shirley Esposito, an instructor with the Chaparral career center, believes the publicity the high school has received for having one of the lowest high school graduation rates within the Clark County School District may hurt the job prospects of the school’s students.

“Employers might consider these kids as having less potential because they go to a failing school,” Esposito said, “but we have some excellent students here. They are smart, hard workers, and any employer would be lucky to have them.”

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