Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) 27th Annual IGNITE Montana Conference (Career Development Conference) was held in Billings, Montana and brought together over 380 students and teachers from across the state on April 26-27.
This year’s conference marked the largest of its kind in the history of JMG that featured a career fair/networking social, eleven competitive events, and a series of eight workshops for students and teachers to attend. Over 175 students competed in competitive events such as Employment Preparation, Electronic Presentation, Public Speaking, Telephone Techniques, Chapter Banner, and Critical Thinking. Each competitive event was staffed by four volunteer judges from the private and public sectors.
Workshops were provided both days that were hosted by presenters such as the National Guard, Verve Exchange, Area Health Education Center, Passages Culinary Arts Program, Conservation Corps, Peace Corps, US Forest Service Smokejumper, and a YouTube personality Ivan the Intrepid. The workshops overall goal was to expose students to different career and educational avenues while sharing the overall theme of Empowerment. Students were given the opportunity to put their skills to work during the Career Fair and Networking Social. Twenty-four booths at the fair showcased companies and organizations from around the state. A few that were represented were; Town Pump, AT&T, FedEx, Lowes, US Postal Service, Target, US Border Patrol, RiverStone Health, Montana Rail Link, and Blanco-Blanco Cosmetology. Students were able to explore a wide variety of career options and even submit resumes all while enjoying delectable hors d’oeuvres and the company of others.
Not all competitive events were straight-laced or business attire only. The Talent Show is an event that students could compete in while putting their talents on full display. Montana’s own Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney was on-hand as the Talent Show’s emcee and was kind enough to perform the nose flute rendition of “Happy Birthday” for a student who turned 16 the day of the conference.
The two-day conference concluded during the awards luncheon with the announcement of all competitive event winners. JMG presented donor recognition plaques to AT&T, Montana Army National Guard, Montana State Employers Council (MSEC), and Reach Higher Montana. Student awards were also presented; nine Chairman’s Recognitions, nine scholarships, twenty-six plaques, and seventy trophies. The highlight of the awards luncheon was a keynote delivered by Susie Hedalen, Director of ESSA with the State of Montana Office of Public Instruction. Susie shared a unique connection with students when she spoke about her time as a JMG student many years ago and competed in JAG’s National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC). Susie proudly displayed the medals she had won at NSLC and spoke about the challenges she overcame as a JMG student. Her story inspired many and will continue to be an inspiration within JMG.