Spring is in the air and for employers and job-seekers across America that can only mean one thing – Career Fair Season!

Here at PMG, we already have a handful of booths under our belt, but a recent event at a local tech school couldn’t help but catch our attention with the unique spin one of their programs put on an old standard.


PMG ReTool attended an employer event at Hennepin Technical College in February and while the school had a traditional career fair scheduled for the afternoon, the Robotics, Mechatronics and Automation Engineering program rolled out their Reverse Career Fair in the morning. Automation instructors Brad Thorpe and Jeff Thorstad came up with this idea to help connect their students with employers. The main goal was to have students set out their semester class projects, science fair style, and individually present them to employers. This allowed those seeking to hire the ability to connect with prospective employees in a much more personal manner than a traditional employer’s table. It also provided the opportunity for employers to connect with the actual hands on classwork in a far more direct way than they typically do. However, the real benefit was how it also gave the students an opportunity to give their class work the most “real world emphasis” possible.


While PMG ReTool observed several student projects, there were a few that stood out the most. One student used their project to win a $10,000 grant from the manufacturer for best alternative use of a PLC that is already utilized in production facilities. Another student, who already has industry experience, decided to trouble-shoot a trouble-shooting module.

In addition, many used their projects to simulate systems they’d be maintaining in a production environment. For example, a student used his previous experience as an extrusion mold operator to simulate the maintenance of larger systems associated with such a facility. Some students even considered recording their presentations and including a hyperlink to the video in their resumes so they could speak to the inevitable “lack of experience” push back they would encounter during the application and interview processes.

Overall, ReTool was not only impressed with the quality of training, preparation, and projects, but with the way students and instructors used these projects to present their class time as being far more applicable to in-production experience than it is generally considered. If you are preparing to enter the manufacturing industry, or are in the position of training those who are, you may want to consider adding a Reverse Career Fair component to your next employer event to give your classwork the best chance to shine in the real world.

Josh Erickson, ReTool Associate