Jennifer Lancaster, left, representing the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources and the Edgewood EMS, speaks with Liv Welsh during the Networking and Career Fair.

Much like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” students at Edgewood-Colesburg learned that after graduation, they really can go home again. And when they do, there will be good career opportunities waiting for them.

That was the message of the Edgewood-Colesburg Networking and Career Fair held in the high school gymnasium, Jan. 31.

Co-sponsored by Edgewood-Colesburg High School, Northeast Iowa Community College Career Learning Link and the Edgewood Chamber of Commerce, the inaugural event gave students information about local businesses and career opportunities in the area. At the same time, it gave businesses in attendance the chance to meet students and teachers to let them know what they are looking for when it comes to hiring.

Of the over two dozen businesses represented at the fair, 17 Ed-Co graduates could be found at business tables ready to share their story about their choice to return to live and work in the area.

Cain Brady, precision farming specialist at Del-Clay Farm Equipment in Edgewood, graduated from Ed-Co in 1999. “Today is a great message for the students,” he said. “It shows them that a bunch of us came back and are living and working in the area. There are job opportunities here if you want to stay in the area and work.”

Brady said the event was also good for Del-Clay. “We have an older workforce and will be looking to hire in the next few years. We are looking for prospects who want to move back. We want to let them know we are an option for employment.”

Jodi Ehlers, work-based learning coordinator and business teacher at Ed-Co, help organize the event. She said the turnout of alumni who helped with the event wasn’t surprising to her.

“We’ve had a lot of people that have chosen to stay in the district,” Ehlers said. “Because they are passionate about our school and about the success of our communities, whenever I call them they don’t hesitate to rise to the occasion, and come and give back any way that they can.”

Edgewood Economic Development Director Elise Bergan said the opportunity for students to work on their soft skills when visiting with business representatives is also important.

“Students were a little shy to begin with, but I think the more opportunities we give them to expand their communication skills the better they do,” Bergan said. “They had a great opportunity to speak with people today who want them to do well.”

Bergan said when she speaks with students, she tells them what she ultimately wants. “I tell them anything is possible in Northeast Iowa. I want smart, fun taxpayers and they fit the bill.”