The Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office Friday held the first of what it hopes will be many annual career fairs for special education students.
Thirteen schools, companies and agencies met with about 120 students from the Kern High School District and several other school districts from outlying areas of the county at the KCSOS offices in downtown Bakersfield.
"We had to turn a few districts away because of the capacity of this venue," said Troy Tickle, coordinator of the Kern County Special Education Local Plan Area. "Next year we'll try to have it somewhere bigger, because we want every child in the county to have access to this."
Depending on who's doing the research, between 40 percent and 85 percent of special education students are unemployed and not in college after high school graduation, compared with 12 percent of regular education students, Tickle said.
Among those with booths at the event were Kaplan College, High Desert Medical College, Grimmway Farms and the U.S. Army.
Travis Edelen, 18, wants to go on to college and said the career fair was a good way to explore his options.
"I want to see what people have that will interest me in my future," he said.
Carlos Pimenteo, 16, is a junior at Cesar Chavez High School in Delano who'd like to get work in the oil fields after graduation, and said he was pleased to see energy giant Baker Hughes at the career fair.
"There are a lot of opportunities in oil," he said.
Having a learning disability shouldn't be a barrier to good paying jobs, said Eric Estrada, a human resources supervisor at Baker Hughes.
"You can earn $32,000 to $40,000 a year for some entry level positions with no college, but we provide college reimbursement so there's no reason to stop there," Estrada told a group of teenagers who stopped at his booth. "Don't let the technology stuff scare you. We provide training, and all these guys you see started where you are."
Paramount Bard Academy junior Kristen Marie, 17, said she's never let her special education background stop her from dreaming of higher education, and she welcomed events such as the career fair to help her on her way.
"I'm not sure what I want to major in yet," she said. "It's good to see different colleges and see what's out there."