TAMPA, Fla. — With graduation approaching for many high school seniors, the question of what comes next is pressing. 

What You Need To Know

  • Many Hillsborough County high school seniors participated in the Future Career Academy hiring event this week

  • During the two-day event, they were able to network with more than 50 of the community’s top employers with the goal of landing a career right after graduation

  • The hiring fairs give Tampa-area employers the opportunity to engage with hundreds of young, qualified, and enthusiastic job prospects eager to launch their careers

  • So far this school year, officials say 9,000 students have participated in the Future Career Academy program

  • Future Career Academy expanded their high school workforce program this year to cover all 32 Hillsborough County high schools and career centers

For students who do not plan to attend college, that deadline is even more stressful — or it would be, if not for Future Career Academy hiring events like the one held Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Hundreds of Hillsborough County High School seniors walked from booth to booth inside the Tampa Convention Center, counting each hand shake as a new connection, and a possible job opportunity made. 

"I went and looked for a job that, that who offers an excellent schedule, and an excellent opportunity for me," said Chamberlain High School senior Santiago Zambrano. "So I went to the court and applied there."

Zambrano said he has an interest in working for the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts after graduation. 

“Well I appreciate you coming here today, and you just having the confidence and wanting to get a job," said one of the job recruiters. 

For some students, these connections may just lead to that next job. But for others, these are future career connections — meaning these interviews could lead to a 10-, 20- or even 30-year career. 

“Children walk in, sometimes they don’t have a lot of hope, they wonder what is their next step, after they graduate," said Hillsborough County School Board Chair Nadia Combs. "And for some kids, that is the finish line. But this really is the start of something new and wonderful for them."  

Combs said the pathway for success is often different for every child.

"Not every child is going to have that traditional path of going into a four-year college," she said. "And we need for our seniors to realize that there is a lot of opportunities and jobs in the future here, in our county. Plumbers, mechanics, electricians, great opportunities where students can really make a really wonderful career of it."

Attendee Alexa Postigo said she likes psychology and wants some real world experience before starting college. She interviewed with the Hillsborough County dispatch center. 

"That one just got my attention, because it helps people, because that is something I want to do in the future," said Postigo.

Postigo and Vambrano both say that many of their peers aren't sure what they want to do following graduation. 

“I kind of felt like in a blur, because I know what I want, but I also feel like at the same time I am still stuck," said Postigo. "So this was a great opportunity — they like helped me learn new things, and experiences." 

"There are so many students that are more concerned about the future, that they don’t know what to do, but here there are so many opportunities," said Zambrano. 

There are three more hiring events coming up for graduating seniors and for the general public. 

The next two are April 19 and 20 at The Regent, 6437 Watson Road in Riverview. Then a final event is happening April 27 at HCC Trinkle Center, 1206 N. Park Road in Plant City.

Graduating seniors can attend from 9 a.m. until noon. Then from noon until 2 p.m. adult job seekers can also attend.