The Calaveras Unified School District and Bret Harte Unified High School District are working together to develop an annual College and Career Fair, the first of which will be held at Bret Harte High School on Feb. 21.

More than 70 presenters from local colleges and vocations will provide students with career opportunities and programs.

Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell characterized the event as a unique opportunity for cooperation between two schools when so much of the community might consider them to be academic or athletic rivals.

“Anything that our students can benefit from in a partnership is phenomenal,” he said. “It increases our students’ connection to Bret Harte students, it increases our students connections to a career pathway. If there are other areas we can collaborate on I think we want to fully explore that.”

Bret Harte Union High School District Superintendent Michael Chimente echoed the goals of the joint effort and emphasized the abiding principles of each district to find realistic and fulfilling opportunities for students as they move on after their high school graduation.

“Both Mark Campbell and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to host a career fair for both of our students to help them understand the opportunities available to them in the career education field,” he said. “Our mission now is to make them both college and career ready.”

Chimente estimated that at Bret Harte High School, almost 10 percent of students move into career technical institutes to receive further education in a specific vocational field. About 25 percent go to a four-year college, about 50 percent to a junior, or two-year college, about 10 percent into the armed forces, and the remainder, directly into the workforce.

The intent of the career fair was to ensure that students seeking post-secondary educational opportunities, whether in a classroom or apprenticeship setting, knew the occupations and classes available to them, Chimente said.

“We want to increase career educational opportunities for all of our students,” he said. ”It's just a way to enhance education career opportunities not only for just our students but for everybody involved.”

At Calaveras High School, the total number of seats occupied by students in their CTE courses is more than 1,000, Campbell said, which includes single students who have multiple seats because of their enrollment in a variety of classes.

“Those numbers,” he said, “have continued to grow.”

Calaveras High School and Bret Harte High School offer a range of CTE courses from agriculture, career preparation for law enforcement or medical occupations, industrial technology courses for automobiles and engineering, as well as information technology classes.

Breakout sessions will also he held where students can learn more in-depth about specific careers, Chimente said.

The fair will run from 9:20 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. at Bret Harte High School.

“There are some other choices out there that are meaningful choices other than a four-year college,” Chimente said.

Underlying the annual plans for a career fair (next year, the event will be held at Calaveras High School) is a ripple of anxiety about local talent leaving the county to pursue lucrative careers and opportunities elsewhere.

The Career Fair is a subset of the Calaveras Workforce Development Initiative, a CTE partnership comprised of the county high schools, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, local community colleges including Columbia College, and the Mother Lode Workforce Development Board.

The mission of the partnership is to “promote Career Awareness opportunities for our students, to the same level that we promote college readiness,” a CWDI press release said.

If there are additional opportunities for students as they leave county high schools, Chimente said, they are more likely to stay, pursue a career, start a family of their own and stymie declining enrollment.

The goal is to “grow a workforce that can provide sustainable jobs and sustainable incomes. We might be able to keep some kids in our county,” he said.

Campbell added that the CWDI could potentially leverage “some money at the state level in order to create more opportunities,” such as a CTE training site.

“Students that may not have a viable pathway, we want to be able to reach out to them as well,” he said.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.