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Hiring Hoosiers: Inspiring career interests for eighth-graders with a virtual job expo

Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 20:16:27-04

INDIANAPOLIS — School this year looks a little different, which has forced an annual children's job expo event to take a new approach. It is all in an effort to keep inspiring the youth towards career paths even amid a pandemic.

Junior Achievement of Central Indiana empowers students towards career paths through career exploration, employable life skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and philanthropy through hands-on learning opportunities.

It is basically a career-expo gone virtual. What is annually held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds with interactive hands-on booths, this year JA JobSpark looks more like a video game-like platform.

"It is basically like a virtual building, like you go into each room, there are virtual meetings like at certain times," AJ Kroner, an eighth-grader taking part in JA JobSpark this year, said.

AJ and Emma Kroner are both in the eighth grade at St. Simon in Indianapolis. They are two of more than 10,000 central Indiana students taking part in JA JobSpark's event.

"With me, it was health and life sciences," Emma Kroner said. "I never knew that I wanted to become something in pharmacy until yesterday when I read about JobSpark."

Junior Achievement's goal is for every student to have a post-secondary plan that leads them to a career opportunity for future success.

"When we were talking about business and finance, I didn't know I was so good at like numbers and stuff," AJ Kroner said. "But I learned that I was."

The brother and sister took career assessments with JA JobSpark to help them find the right career path for them with their personality traits and interests.

JA JobSpark will open the doors to a variety of industries including manufacturing, agriculture, business and finance, law, government, tourism, tech, and health sciences.

It also allows central Indiana companies to start recruiting the future generation of their employees.

"At eighth grade, they are making these decisions right now and deciding what they really want to do, so that's why we really want to expose them as early as possible to healthcare careers," Cheri Bate, manager of education for respiratory care and PFT at IU Health Academic Health Center, said.

IU Health is taking part in JobSpark this year and related their lesson to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, allowing students to take part virtually in a demonstration with live lamb lungs on a ventilator and have a discussion with respiratory therapists and doctors.

"What a respiratory therapist does as far as looking at technology and all the things that we are involved hopefully makes it look interesting and something that they may want to pursue as they get older," Bate said.

While these students are still young, JA JobSpark is keeping them inspired and informed of whatever career option they want to do.

"I want to help people sort of now, more than I did," Emma said. "I want to be something in pharmacy and be a lawyer."

Depending on the industry they chose to learn more about, those students will then learn skills and personal attributes needed for those careers that are forecasted to be in high demand when they graduate high school.

"I want to be an eye doctor, that just fascinates me," AJ said.

Junior Achievement of Central Indiana works to engage children from pre-school through high school towards career paths through different programs and educational opportunities throughout the year.

Learn more about Junior Achievement of Central Indiana here: https://www.jajobspark.org/.

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