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Northern Valley Career Expo returns to the Alerus Center

Some schools were unable to have students attend due to COVID-19 issues, and all students, vendors and visitors at the expo were required to wear masks indoors. Eric Ripley, director of career and technical education for Grand Forks Public Schools and member of the Expo Planning Committee, helped establish the event 10 years ago. He said he was impressed with the turnout this year considering the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Molly Broberg from Baudette (Minnesota) works on a brake assembly demonstration at the North Dakota State School of Science booth during the Northern Valley Career Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Alerus Center. (Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald)
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After a year away, the Northern Valley Career Expo returned to the Alerus Center on Wednesday, Oct. 27, with crowds almost as big as those in 2019.

This was the ninth time it has been held, and the first since the pandemic began, providing opportunities for more than 1,700 high school sophomores from 46 schools to explore career paths by visiting with more than 60 employers during the event. Students visited with professionals from 22 different career fields to help them discover how to put their interests to work in the Northern Valley.

Eric Ripley, director of career and technical education for Grand Forks Public Schools and member of the Expo Planning Committee, helped establish the event 10 years ago. He said he was impressed with the turnout this year considering the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was one of the things the steering committee talked about was, ‘What would the demand and interest be, not only from the schools that are sending kids, but also from our exhibitors that also participate,’” Ripley said.

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Area students, from left, Braydon Wolfgram; Thompson High School, Loren Grad, Northwood-Hatton High School, Brody Gibson and Drew Overby, Thompson High School work on a cybersecurity demonstration with Bismarck State College polytechnical outreach director Alicia Uhde during the Northern Valley Career Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Alerus Center. (Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald)

Some schools were unable to have students attend due to COVID-19 issues, and all students, vendors and visitors at the expo were required to wear masks indoors.

Present at the expo were drone races, construction companies hosting strongman competitions and even human dummies that Jessi Nicola, program administrator at the UND Simulation Center, said can be programmed to cry, bleed and more for those interested in medical careers.

"We can put burnt clothes around it to make it more lifelike," Nicola said. "The simulator will talk to you, so you can program it to do things ahead of time, like a scenario. They're basically a fake patient with a voice that act as a real patient."

Other companies represented fields from transportation, food services, architecture and more. Unmanned aircraft systems booths occupied a chunk of the exhibit space. Becca Cruger, workforce development manager for the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation and another member of the Expo Planning Committee, said with the expansion of the industry in Grand Forks, the expo could possibly see UAS space expand even more over the next few years.

“UAS is such a growing industry, which is great,” Cruger said. “It’s actually grown over 600% in Grand Forks over the past five years, according to EDC measure surveys.”

Cruger said the expo is continuing to evolve and alter what it provides based on feedback from students in attendance.

“Last year, the students who came through, we asked them the question, ‘Are you more likely to consider careers in the Northern Valley region because of the exhibits,’” Cruger said. “85% of students said that they were more likely to consider careers, so we’re pretty proud of that.”

Related Topics: ALERUS CENTER
Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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