At Monday's Health Careers Fair, Cristal Star Mena went from table to table, asking recruiters about the availability of internships and jobs in their medical billing departments.
Mena is pursuing both a certificate in medical billing/coding and an associate degree in Foundations of Health. Although she won't graduate until spring 2014, she planned to take full advantage of the event.
"I wanted to find out what they are looking for," said Mena, a Springfield resident. "It's good think about those things now as a student, rather than later."
Mena was one of hundreds of Holyoke Community College students who attended the fair, which was held in the PeoplesBank conference room in the Kittredge Center. Representatives from more than 30 health-care related employers participated.
"The purpose of the fair is to educate students about the breadth of allied health careers and also for employers to learn about the different skills and training and certifications our students bring," said Rebecca Lewis, coordinator for HCC's Foundations of Health program. "We want to let the employers know we have a workforce here they can benefit from."
The agencies that attended ranged from hospitals such as Cooley Dickinson and Baystate, community health centers such as the Holyoke Health Center, public agencies, including the Holyoke Board of Health and the Medical Reserve Corps, and extended care facilities, such as Charlene Manor and Linda Manor. Career assistance groups such as Career Point and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County were also represented.
A group of students in HCC's medical assistant certificate program stopped by the Cooley Dickinson Hospital table to talk to recruiter Tim Artus. Artus recommended they take the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants) certification exam as soon as possible after they graduate June 1.
"That's one of the things that we look for," Artus said. "We are looking for folks that are certified. It gives you a leg up."
Easthampton resident Renee Garcia, one of those students, said that was good advice.
"I didn't know how important it was until he stressed it," she said.
Photos: (Left) HCC student Renee Garcia talks to Tim Artus, a recruiter from Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. (Right) Students talk to a representative from Wingate Healthcare, a nursing home in Wilbraham.