The first career fair held by Campbell University’s School of Engineering featured four companies in a small room inside the Carrie Rich Building. A few years later, students sought their internships and post-graduation jobs in a Zoom meeting.
Thursday’s sixth Engineering Career Fair was a representation of engineering’s growth at Campbell — 25 companies, ranging from robotics to biopharmaceutical research to the state’s new electric car manufacturer, packed the ballroom inside the Oscar N. Harris Student Union to talk career opportunities with more than 100 students, each donning suits and other business attire and armed with resumes and talking points.
“Engineers aren’t always known for their personalities, at least to outsiders, but I think [the career fair] gives us a chance to show just how personable we can be and allows us to work on our people skills,” said engineering senior Georgia Yeargin, who has enjoyed two internships as a student and is lined up to begin work with biotech company Amgen after graduation. “This allows us to show what we know and network with professionals from so many different areas of engineering.”
The students came prepared, according to Teresa Ratcliff, the School’s director of interprofessional education and outreach. Each had a “five star badge” filled out, showing they’ve taken required career preparation workshops on subjects like resumes and networking. They also had to have their resume looked over and approved by a professor. They also had to arrive dressed for the part — students were not allowed to arrive in T-shirts, shorts and tennis shoes.
Ratcliff called the event a “valuable experience” for the students, but with a few dozen participating companies on hand this year, it’s a valuable event for the School of Engineering and Campbell as well.
“It’s important to have these companies come to Buies Creek, visit our campus and our facilities and see what we’re doing here,” she said. “It’s one thing to meet the students, but it means even more to see how Campbell and our dean approach engineering education. It gives them context to what they’re seeing on the resumes.”
About half of the companies on hand Thursday were there because they’ve employed Campbell graduates or had students as interns in the past, Ratcliff added. A handful of Campbell alumni were on the other side of the table recruiting for their new companies.
Among the new companies on display was Vinfast, the Vietnam-based electric car manufacturing company that broke ground this summer on a massive facility in Moncure, North Carolina, just 30 miles from Campbell’s main campus. The multi-billion-dollar investment will create more than 7,000 new jobs in the region — many of them skilled engineers.
Anna Gardner, Vinfast’s vice president of human resources in North Carolina, said she’s been impressed with the facilities and labs at Campbell and the School of Engineering’s hands-on curriculum. With production expected to begin as soon as July of 2025, Gardner said the company is actively recruiting new graduates with real experience.
“We’re going to need all sorts of awesome engineers,” she said. “Much of our facility will be automated, so we’ll need a lot of manufacturing engineers and a lot of process engineers — mechanical and electrical — in order to operate.”
In addition to their table at the career fair, Vinfast brought one of its vehicles — a white SUV — for students to see outside of the student union on Thursday.
“We’re at Campbell to make sure these students know we’re in the area and to get our brand out there. Vinfast is a great company that builds a great car, and I think people are starting to get excited about it here.”
Jerry Pedley, president of Mertek Solutions in Sanford and a member of the school’s External Advisory Board, said he’s hired Campbell graduates and brought in Campbell interns, and his experience with those men and women keeps him returning to these events.
“They come in ready to go, and they’re already familiar with the work we do,” Pedley said. “They’re just very well versed in all areas of engineering, and they can fit into any company, really, and do great things. I know we’re always looking for hands-on engineers, those who can design and build the machines we use. We do robotics and automation, and I’m confident when we bring Campbell graduates in, that they’re ready. They run a very good program here, and I’m proud of what they’ve managed to do.”