Mock job interviews give Inspire U students the chance to hone skills

Fifty nervous high school students and their CPS Energy mentors discussed tactics ahead of the mock-interviews they were about to do with representatives from several San Antonio businesses last week.

The students and mentors are part of Inspire U, a one-on-one mentoring program that encourages at-risk students to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. Along with the typical pressures of high school, some of these students also face poverty, abuse, broken families and other circumstances that pose as major obstacles to graduation.

CPS Energy works with Communities in Schools – San Antonio to pair employees with students from Edison, Kennedy, Sam Houston and South San high schools. Of the roughly 50 students who participate each year, ten will go on to get paid work experience with CPS Energy as summer interns.

“The skills needed to successfully navigate interviews are not always learned at home. This is a chance to learn and practice those skills with representatives from companies like Rackspace, Zachry, OCI Solar Power and the City of San Antonio,” said Inspire U Coordinator Karen Sanders. “For many students, this is their first face-to-face interviewing experience. It’s a great opportunity to build foundational skills such as firm hand shakes, good eye contact and confidence.

The students receive immediate feedback from the recruiters and their mentors, she noted. For Henry, that meant increasing confidence with each interview.

“I now have an idea of what type of questions to expect on an interview,” said the Sam Houston High School junior and aspiring marine biologist. “During my first interview I was a little nervous but as I went through the interviews I felt my confidence building.”

Henry’s mentor, CPS Energy Safety and Health Analyst Robert Stull, saw that building confidence, too. “It was great for him and the rest of the students to learn to control their nervousness and apprehension.”

CPS Energy began mentoring students in 2007 through the Connecting The Dots Job Shadowing Program. The utility eventually shared its curriculum and materials with other companies, and today, 50 local companies now mentor more than 1,000 students annually through Communities in Schools.

“We all have a stake in creating an educated, successful local workforce,” said Sanders. “Inspire U is just one of several educational programs that allow CPS Energy to support our community’s youth.”

Rackspace Program Manager of Operations Sean Attwood said he felt a connection with the students. “As a young person, I too was seeking guidance and skills necessary to obtain a job. Young adults are so full of optimism and anyone who has time to contribute to ensuring a bright future for them should do so.”


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