SARASOTA, Fla. (June 24, 2016) A behind-the-scenes tour of Manatee County government on Thursday had some USF Sarasota-Manatee students thinking about careers in public service.
“It definitely opened my eyes to the different options,” finance major Brian Wilson said after the all-day event called “County Career Connections.”
The session was intended to show the variety of jobs in local government, from finance to family counseling. For the morning, the 15 students toured government offices and met with Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker as well as department heads and other employees.
After lunch, they headed to the judicial center, also in downtown, to meet with 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Smith Jr., a USF alum; Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael S. Bennett; County Court Judge Doug Henderson, an adjunct instructor at USFSM; and Byron Shinn, managing partner of accounting firm Shinn & Co. Shinn is also a USF alum, as well as a member of the USF Board of Trustees and USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board.
Like other students, Wilson, 22, a senior, said he took the tour to explore his career options. He’s also considering a career at a financial services company, possibly as a broker, and returning to school for an MBA. Now a new idea is taking hold, possibly working in public service.
“I liked the aspect of keeping government accountable and making sure budgets are in proper order,” he said. “I would be interested in working in the budgeting department. They were constantly updating their budgets and tracking things to make sure money isn’t being wasted.”
The tour comes amidst strengthening ties between Manatee County and USF Sarasota-Manatee.
In addition to holding more career events, the sides are exploring possible internships, mentoring, job shadowing and specialized training. With 500 county employees eligible for retirement, the government faces the prospect of numerous job openings over the next few years, officials said.
“Overall, I liked it a lot,” recent master’s degree graduate Chris Landis said of the tour. “It was very informative and I met a lot of people. It was great for networking.”
Landis, an Army veteran and Bradenton resident, said he’s interested in a criminal justice career at Manatee County. In particular, he said he wants to work at a diversionary program for veterans struggling with PTSD. After touring Manatee’s government offices, the students stopped by the judicial center across the street for an afternoon session with department heads.
“I’d like to do something where I’m helping the community,” Landis said.
Likewise, Hannah Fossum, a 20-year-old Interdisciplinary Social Sciences student, said she was curious about criminal justice careers. Although her major focuses on social work and psychology, she’s minoring in criminal justice. She said the tour opened her eyes to the career possibilities.
“I liked the probation side, the psychology-type positions,” she said. “I also liked Neighborhood Community Services. I need to do more research on that.”
Fossum is set to graduate in December 2017. Until then, she said, she might explore possible internships at the county and careers devoted to community service.
“I liked the family and child services side,” she said. “That’s really where I want to go. I’ll be looking into that a little bit more.”