University of Montana student Gill Ritchie was talking on the phone with her parents last week when they asked about her plans after graduation in May.
She didn’t know.
Thus Ritchie’s participation Wednesday in the annual Big Sky Employment Fair at the University of Montana to assess her options in the community health field.
Among her discoveries: GSK, a global pharmaceutical company with a lab in Hamilton, offers opportunities to raise awareness about vaccinations while traveling the world, both pluses for Ritchie.
The company needs to fill 30 positions at its Hamilton facility, including work in manufacturing, quality assurance and engineering, said GSK business support manager Pamela Sager.
“For me, this career fair was actually perfect timing,” Ritchie said. “I’ve definitely found more opportunities and have made more connections here than I have all the other ways I’ve been looking for jobs.”
For 30 years, the Big Sky Employment Fair has offered full-time, part-time and internship opportunities to UM students in a variety of professional careers.
This year, 73 employers recruited students, up from 60 last year, with a few new enrollees looking for local talent. More than 360 students attended last year’s fair.
“It’s a time for students to come and network with employers. We have students and alumni from all majors being hired for full-time, part-time and internship positions,” said Emily Johnson, recruiting coordinator for University of Montana Career Services.
A few businesses are new to the fair, including Missoula-based OnXmaps Inc., a major GPS mapping software company that created the Hunt App, which provides information about 985 million acres of public land.
“It’s GPS on your phone and we show public and private land information overlaid on top of aerial imagery. Our primary customer base is hunters, although we have people using the app for anything outdoor recreation-related,” said Jeff Lutzenberger, senior director of engineering for OnXmaps in Bozeman.
The company is looking for computer science students to fill spots in their new summer internship program, including two positions in Missoula and two in Bozeman. Lutzenberger said he’ll interview 10 students on Thursday.
“The goal is to develop great talent, source great talent within Montana and teach them how we work and how software development processes work,” he said. “Ideally, if they do well, we’ll hire them as full-time employees.”
UM student Jesse LaFlesch is studying computer science and was eager to put his name out there for a software engineering job with OnXmaps.
“I’ve been eyeballing OnXmaps for an internship for quite some time, and for the longest time they haven’t had a program available for interns,” LaFlesch said. “This will be the first year that they have now incorporated an internship program, so I’m trying to jump onboard before everyone else takes it.”
Environment Montana, a local environmental advocacy organization, set up a booth for the first time at the employment fair, looking for people to fill summer jobs. Through the Fund for the Public Interest, Environment Montana along with other state branches of the organization will knock on thousands of doors as part of their biggest campaign yet.
Environment Montana state director Skye Borden said she has five students in mind for follow-up interviews in the next few days.
“Right now, the biggest campaigns we’re going to be mobilizing people on are 100 percent renewable energy and we’d like to see a reduction on (neonicotinoid), which is a bee-killing pesticide,” Borden said. “One of the campaigns I’ll be focusing a lot on in Montana is the ban of single-use styrofoam, because who needs it?”
UM business administration grad student Stephanie Mansfield was interested in project management with Environment Montana, but she said she’s open minded.
As an undergraduate, Mansfield said she didn’t attend job fairs and missed out on career opportunities. This time, she’s making sure to look into everything that’s available.
“Honestly, I’ve been trying to spread just as far as I can and I’m looking for new challenges always,” Mansfield said. “I was always told that when it came to looking for a career, I should look outside the box, so I’m not trying to pass up anybody because you never know where that dream job might be.”