On Nov. 16, nearly 90 students and teachers gathered at the University of Maine, Orono, for a career fair focusing upon educational and career opportunities in Maine that use Information Technology (IT) and science, engineering, technology and mathematics skills.

This is the second career fair organized as part of CREST, a National Science Foundation-funded program that provides hands-on information technology education and IT career awareness opportunities for students in rural areas. Six of the 11 CREST schools attended the event, representing students from Cumberland to Washington County.

“We are trying to give students a better understanding of what options are available for them in Maine, either in college or in their career,” said Shey Conover, the Island Institute GIS program officer working with the CREST Program.

The day featured guest speakers who use IT in a variety of professional and educational contexts including medicine, integrating art and business, and storytelling.

Many of these professions use technologies similar to those implemented in the student’s CREST program, and the event allowed students to see the “next steps” to which IT and STEM-related skills can apply.

Presenters discussed the path that had led to their current career, and Meg Springer, a College Access Consultant from Peaks Island, spoke with students about the college application process, applying for financial aid and scholarship opportunities. In addition, University of Maine students and admissions counselors led students on campus tours.

The event concluded with information about the next opportunity for the participants to develop their career aspirations, the CREST Career Day in March. This event will enable students to visit and shadow IT professionals at their workplace.

Ruth Kermish-Allen, the education officer at the Island Institute, who is working on CREST with Conover, said that participants were very positive about the event.

“The participants had a lot of chances to ask questions and interact with each other and the presenters; it was very engaging and stimulated excitement and engagement,” said Kermish-Allen. “The only negative feedback we received was that it was raining during the college tours…but we called it typical weather for a college campus in Maine!