High school students got the chance Tuesday to meet potential future employers at the “Linking Youth to Local Employers” program sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board and Chambers of Commerce countywide at the 83-year-old Hill-Carrillo Adobe.

Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman said students may not understand the historical significance of the Hill-Carrillo Adobe, the original meeting place of the Santa Barbara City Council, but the evening was about exposing youths to opportunities they wouldn’t see otherwise.

“The goal is to expose kids to a mix of careers that they would never be exposed to,” said Cushman, who said his first job was washing dishes to pay for his lunch in elementary school. “I hope some will get summer jobs, some will be exposed to a career they couldn’t even imagine and some will hear stories they can relate to.”

There were 24 “conversation stations” where students were urged to talk to business owners, musicians, filmmakers, restaurant owners, journalists, architects, bankers and many other professionals. Some students entertained conversations with executives set up along the patio and throughout the building, while others played music with a professional musician in the courtyard.

Architect Michael Holliday of JM Holliday Associates said the variety is important because anything from a conversation to an example of professional work can ignite a student’s interest.

“You see the spark in their eyes when they see how much fun it is to be passionate about what you do,” he said. “The value of something like this is you never know what’s going to spark a kid to pursue a profession — it may be someone they talked to or something they saw. When kids get exposed to a variety of professions on one site, where is that going to happen elsewhere?”

Joe Aquino, a Santa Barbara County Youth Corps crew supervisor, brought some of his kids to the event. He said one can’t understate the importance of meeting professionals and making impressions in today’s job market.

“You come to one spot to meet a whole bunch of employers and do something in two hours that you couldn’t do trying to drive around town,” he said. “I hope my kids learn how to interview, how to talk professionally, read people’s expressions and ask the right questions.”

In Aquino’s day, he said he would go out to employers and shake their hands rather than send a résumé that may get 10 seconds of attention, adding that it makes events such as this that much more important.

“Times have changed. Nowadays you need to be more aware of what’s out there,” Aquino said. “Now there are so many people applying employers can’t meet 100 people so they go through résumés and pick 10 — you aren’t guaranteed they will even read them.”

The Chamber of Commerce established “A Chance for Change” scholarship program benefiting at-risk youths from gang violence, and the 10 contracted SBCC students attended the networking event.

“I hope their eyes are opened to something they would never see anywhere else,” Cushman said.

Maria deAlba, a mentor for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, sent two of her sons to last year’s event. She said they couldn’t stop talking about it and told all their friends, and that it resulted in summer jobs as well.

The program at the adobe was the first of three events at that location, with the other two scheduled for May 24 and June 21.

“I think it’s beautiful to see these kids coming out and talking to professionals about their careers,” Holliday said, “especially people who are interested and passionate about what they do.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at akacik@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.