4,000 Students, 75 Employers and One Amazing Career Fair

This is not your average career fair. In fact, it’s not a career fair at all.

Flash back to 12-year-old you. What did you want to be when you grew up? Perhaps a doctor that saves lives, an astronaut that defies gravity or a firefighter that battles flames. Regardless of your choice, that feeling of “anything is possible” likely fueled your dreams and broadened your future.

In September, United Way of Southwest Virginia gave more than 4,000 seventh-graders that feeling during a Careers Expo for Youth, which saw 46 schools from 17 school systems participate. As an extension of their Ignite Program, which offers career awareness and hands-on learning to nearly 30,000 students across the region, the event offered students an up-close look at what their futures could hold.

Throughout the two-day event, students moved through four zones filled with immersive activities hosted by 75 employers from 16 different industries—from science and technology to civil service and utility maintenance. When they weren’t learning how to conduct CPR, they were climbing a utility pole, operating a 3-D printer and experimenting with chemistry, among other activities.

The Expo was a valuable opportunity to engage local youth and showcase career opportunities available locally, as one teacher attested: “This was a perfect example of what I’ve always dreamed of providing our students in terms of a ‘career day’; however, we would have never been able to have this many organizations involved!” The students also enjoyed the educational experience, with one participant saying: “The Expo was like a day off, but you’re still learning!”

You too can contribute to the next generation by getting involved in your community. Here are three ways you can help local students chart a path to success:

  1. Get Your Company Involved: Many communities host career days at local high schools, or work with employers to arrange for high school students to intern or job shadow. Talk to your local United Way about how your company can teach youth about how to get a job in your industry.
  2. Become a Mentor: Want to use your experiences to help others get ahead? Invite students—or a classroom—to your workplace for a day-long mentorship opportunity. Your local United Way can help you identify local students who are eager to learn and grow.
  3. Serve as a Volunteer: Engage your local United Way to learn more about their job-training efforts and how you can help youth prepare for the workforce. By volunteering your services, you can help tomorrow’s leaders become skilled laborers today.

Success begins with support. United Way and volunteers across the globe are helping students start school ready to succeed, become proficient readers at a young age, stay on track in middle school, earn their high school diploma, and pursue a higher education or career. Learn more about our work.