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USFSM students learn about career opportunities at Manatee County government

USF Sarasota-Manatee students listen to Manatee County employees to learn about career options with Manatee County government Thursday at the Manatee County Administration building.
USF Sarasota-Manatee students listen to Manatee County employees to learn about career options with Manatee County government Thursday at the Manatee County Administration building. gjefferies@bradenton.com

Hannah Fossum always assumed local government careers dealt with criminology.

After visiting Manatee County government Thursday, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee junior learned careers with Manatee County span many more fields.

“I think it is really interesting,” said the 20-year-old student of psychology and social work. “Since it is such a small community, it is really important to try to keep people here. To show them they can stay here and do something with the community is really awesome.”

About 15 USFSM students heard from officials ranging from county administrator to a senior probation officer about opportunities available at Manatee County as part of the first “County Career Connections” event.

“We employ almost every profession there is,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said. “It is an interesting career in government.”

With more than 500 county employees eligible to retire, Manatee County is “wishing and wanting to partner with local colleges,” said Rodney Barnes, county human resources director.

“The government of today isn’t going to be the government of tomorrow,” he said. “We are challenging the status quo. We are going to look for opportunities and partnerships to get you into the county.”

USFSM has a similar event planned for Sarasota County later this summer, and university officials hope to do more in the future. The event allows the students to see jobs available and interact with people actually working for government, said Casey Welch, USFSM assistant vice president external and government affairs.

“I think that was the dual intention of this experience,” Welch said. “We are talking about doing something like this every semester.”

If students don’t see there are opportunities locally, they leave for other places creating a “brain drain,” said Terry Osborn, USFSM regional chancellor for academic and student affairs.

“We are going to expand it and have more experiences for students,” he said.

The visit “sparked an interest” working for county government in USFSM graduate Francesca Ashton, who received her psychology degree in December.

“I really like it, very informational, very interesting, very different from what I thought it would be,” the 26 year old said. “Now that I’m here, it is definitely making me want to.”

For 35-year-old Avery Allerdyce, graduating in August with a degree in accounting, he is “very possibly considering a career” in government after the visit.

“I’m interested in being able to work in something that is service oriented,” he said. “How you can work and be valuable to the local community seems very interesting to me.”

With the talent pool changing, the students are coming in at an exciting time, Barnes said.

“We hope today will spark some interest,” he said.

Cheri Coryea, county neighborhood services director, also shared her excitement the students were visiting.

“Hard work, determination and getting to know what your community does makes a big difference,” Coryea said.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson

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