Finding Their Future: Students Attend Annual Job Fair

McDonald (far right) is pursuing a career in acute care physical therapy.

McDonald (far right) is pursuing a career in acute care physical therapy.

Shelby Winn and Steven McDonald had only a few minutes at each table to describe themselves and their goals to individuals who have the potential to change their lives.

Although it sounds like a scene out of a romantic comedy, Winn and McDonald aren’t looking for a date. They were two of close to 300 students who recently attended an annual job fair hosted by the School of Allied Sciences.

“It’s like job speed dating, but a little slower no timer,” said McDonald, a third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student. “[The job fair] is a good opportunity for students to get exposed all of the different types of companies that are offering jobs. This actually kind of saves us time between clinical rotations. I already got one interview here. And I’m going to try to get a couple more.”

More Jobs Than Employees

Allied health sciences professionals, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and audiology experts, support and increase the efficiency of nursing and medical teams. There are more than 5 million allied health sciences professionals in the U.S., and more than 200 allied health sciences careers.

Health care employment is projected to increase in coming years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is expected technological advances will drive growth in patient care, along with an increasing emphasis on preventive care.

Nathan Burgess, PT, NPT, NCS, director of clinical education for the Physical Therapy Program, said the annual job fair brings together future allied health sciences professionals and clinicians from different parts of the country to help fill vital roles in patient care.

“I think the main benefit is just networking,” Burgess said. “The idea was to … give the students the opportunity to make connections as well as give clinics the opportunity to market themselves and make connections with potential future hires.”

Winn would like to practice speech-language pathology in a hospital setting.

Winn would like to practice speech-language pathology in a hospital setting.

Joel Blanco graduated from the School of Allied Health Sciences in 2006 with a master’s in physical therapy. He is now the manager of in-patient rehab at United Regional Health Care System in the Wichita Falls area.

He said the demand for allied health professionals has increased since he entered the workforce, and he was excited to be among the more than 40 vendors at his alma mater’s job fair.

“Being an alum, I think that helps a lot just to relate to the students here,” Blanco said. “Hopefully I can be more open-minded about what they’re bringing to the table and help them understand what is going on in the job market and how it’s working.”

Ready for Work

McDonald said he came to the job fair with a few resumes in his hand and a list of questions in his head. He said he is looking forward to entering the workforce as an acute care physical therapist.

“The career field is wide open, it’s a high-demand career field,” McDonald said. “The opportunity to negotiate even the starting salaries is huge. I’m making it sound like it’s all about the money and the time, but also just the type of work is rewarding, you get to help people. It’s a great job. When you’re stuck in bed all day, you’ve got nothing to live for. But if some guy can come along and teach you how to walk again, that’s huge.”

Winn, a first-year speech-language pathology student, said she is looking forward to graduation, but isn’t quite ready to line up a job. Instead, she said she attended the job fair in hopes of finding a good setting to complete her required summer externship.

When she does graduate, Winn said she would like to work as an acute care speech-language pathologist in a hospital setting. Eventually, when she has a family of her own, Winn said she might consider working with school children.

“I talked to my aunt who is in occupational therapy, and she was absolutely wonderful to watch, but what I really loved was watching her co-workers who were SLPs, and so that’s what really got me plugged in,” Winn said. “I feel like graduation has been a long time coming, and so it’s great to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel to get to do something that I really love.”

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