It was a job fair like no other in the Black Hills.
On Thursday, numerous employers set up shop at Belle Fourche High School and in some cases were hiring students on the spot.
School counselor Jeff Caldwell said the response to the school's first job fair was overwhelming and the school is already planning to move to a bigger venue next year so its 400 students can get exposed and prepared for the real world.
"We had to turn some businesses away this year," he said. "We are looking at taking it to the Belle Fourche Area Community Center to have more room for schools and businesses to let our students see what opportunities there are for their future, and how to prepare for them."
Caldwell said the idea came up at a brainstorming session of the Purple Pride school-community partnership group.
"Scott Peterson suggested it because there are more opportunities in our area for our students than many of them realize," he said.
Peterson said he is often looking for skilled auto technicians at his car dealership and that the paychecks meet industry standards.
Caldwell said 42 businesses, colleges and technical schools and military organizations were at the job fair, which began just before 8 a.m. Juniors and seniors had the first chance to check the opportunities and were joined 30 minutes later by freshmen and sophomores.
Senior Jeremiah Johnson was with U.S. Marine Corps recruiters Sgt. Anthony Abitz and Lance Cpl. Jared Anderson. Johnson has been working out with them to prepare for boot camp Aug. 19.
Another popular military recruiter was the South Dakota Army National Guard's Vanessa Powles.
"We have openings for heavy equipment operators right here in the Northern Hills' 842nd Engineer Company," she said. "That offers training that can be put to work in local jobs, farms and ranches."
American Colloid, one of the businesses with a booth, has similar opportunities as well as office jobs in the Belle Fourche area.
Two new Belle Fourche businesses were represented, too.
Christina Scholz hired at least one senior on the spot for the CBH Cooperative's new travel center that opens this spring at the junction of U.S. Highways 85 and 212. She said she was looking for full- and part-time workers with people skills.
Pipeline Plastics, which expects to open its new plastic pipe manufacturing plant this spring, also was looking to hire, according to plant manager Curtis Vanhoozer, who said he was looking for workers with mechanical and math skills.
The school's principal, Mathew Raba, said he was so impressed with Thursday's event that he expects it to be a long tradition at the school.
"It definitely will be an annual event," he said at the close of the first BFHS Career Day.