By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Students from nearly a dozen colleges and universities were at Iron City on Friday for the fourth annual Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) Talent Recruitment Project.
The day-long event during Magic City Classic weekend was aimed at Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students, as well as business students.
The event included “speed mentoring,” where employers got the opportunity to meet and talk with students; two panels about diversity and inclusion, and how companies are making efforts to be diverse; and how students can get the jobs they want.
Students had a minimum 3.0 GPA and were referred by their career services director or professor, and are pursuing a business or STEM-related degree.
Schools included Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University, Alabama State University, Auburn University, Miles College, Lawson State Community College, Samford University, Stillman College, The University of Alabama and The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Huntsville.
Area companies included Alabama Power, ACIPCO, Altec, Brasfield & Gorrie, Cadence Bank, Grand Bohemian, Vulcan Materials Co, Shipt, Honda, and the Jefferson County Commission.
Natalia Espariagoca, a manufacturing engineering major at Jacksonville State University, was among those in attendance. She learned about the event through her adviser.
“She encouraged me to come here because of the diversity and opportunity to contact different employers,” said Espariagoca, who is from Venezuela. “They’re (companies) looking for international, Hispanic people and I’m here for those opportunities,” she said.
Espaiagoca moved to the United States three years ago, and said she didn’t know any English when she arrived. Now she has a 3.4 GPA and is looking for an internship.
“I think [the event] is perfect, I feel included and I feel that finally we have a place where we can attend and get the attention of employers,” she said. “I think it’s important to know what’s going on out there; the type of skills employers are looking for and what they are expecting.”
One takeaway for Espariagoca, she said, was to be confident.
“I liked the beginning with the mentors because I got an idea of what kind of questions to ask, they gave me advice for the future, so I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “I learned to show my personality, not to overreact, and just be confident in myself.”
Espariagoca said she hopes the companies represented will see the eagerness of students in attendance.
“I hope they can see what the talent is around the area, and what to expect for future generations,” she said. “We’re in a developing world; it’s changing every day so I think it’s best for them to get in touch with what we are doing in school.”
Louise Ritter, Talent Acquisition Partner at Protective Life Corp. said she was impressed with the students she met.
“I’m hoping to get a lot of traffic at the table and collect some resumes and, selfishly, I’m hoping to fill some internships, but I want to connect for future opportunities, as well,” she said.
Ritter, who spoke at the panel discussion about diversity and inclusion, said students at the event were some of the “best and brightest.”
“We have the advantage of getting in front of students that we might not usually have [in traditional recruitment],” she said. “Also from a branding standpoint … anything we can do to be involved and engaged in the community, we’re going to do that.”
Scheduling the event during the Magic City Classic weekend was no accident.
Brittney Smith, Manager of Workforce Development with the BBA, said the weekend was an “opportune time to show people that Birmingham is a great place to live, work and play.”
“Hopefully we can get students aligned with programs where they can get the information they need . . . and land a job here in the city of Birmingham,” she said.
STEM is big in Birmingham, Smith said.
“We want to show that the tech talent is here in Birmingham,” she said. “Technical skills are key, so we want to bridge [the] gap and connect that talent with what’s here in the city.”