Twenty-five participants in UCF’s PRIME STEM program honed their career-related skills at the inaugural STEM Career Academy on Friday.

During the event, students were able to evaluate the fit of their personal attributes and abilities with their intended career path, and attended workshops on gaining job experience before graduation and graduate/professional school options.

The academy also featured skill development for networking and elevator pitches offered by UCF Career Services. Students applied these skills during a networking event with more than 35 industry professionals. During a reception sponsored by the Central Florida Research Park Incubator, students connected with physicians, scientists, engineer, and entrepreneurs representing a variety of STEM fields.

“The event provided our students a glimpse at the professional world they will soon join and an opportunity to connect with individuals that are where they aspire to be,” said Amy Bickel, assistant director of PRIME STEM. The success stories of internship interviews, professional mentorship and potential job opportunities are already coming in less than a week after the event, she said.

The PRIME STEM program is designed to increase college retention and graduation rates of first-generation college students, those who are low income or have disabilities, and are pursuing science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees at UCF. It is a federally funded TRiO program and has been at UCF since 2010.

The 2015-16 PRIME STEM cohort is 86 percent first generation and 73 percent first-generation and low-income. For these students they are not only the first in their families to attend college, but they are often the first to hold a professional position and this is one of the factors that impacts their employment rates post-graduation.

The STEM Career Academy builds on PRIME STEM’s goals and aims to prepare students for the STEM workforce. The hope is that this targeted intervention will mediate the number of first-generation students who graduate but are not employed or under-employed, by boosting career readiness and skill development before they start the job search.

Though this was the pilot year for the STEM Career Academy, the strong industry support and student interest likely will help bring back the program again.

Nicolas Bolanos, a junior majoring in computer science, said: “The STEM Career Academy provided me with great tools to understand my career choices, support offered to me and ways to get involved at UCF.”