January 27, 2021

4th Annual Careerspark Connects Over 3,200 Greater Peoria Students To Their Future Careers

PEORIA – Over 3,200 eighth grade students from the Greater Peoria area will attend the 4th annual CareerSpark, a multi-industry career expo set to launch virtually (new this year!) Jan. 26, 2021. This free expo provides interactive activities and numerous exhibits showcasing our region’s most critically needed careers in healthcare, manufacturing, business, agriculture, and more. 

The event is made possible through the generous support of funders like Union Pacific Railroad, PNC Foundation, Bayer, and the Peoria and Tazewell Regional Offices of Education. This free-of-charge to regional schools event is co-led by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and Junior Achievement of Central Illinois.

As a strategy of our region’s Workforce Alliance is to develop a skilled future workforce, CareerSpark is the first step in connecting Greater Peoria’s soon-to-be high school students to the region’s career resources. 

“Career exploration is incredibly important for middle school students. By eighth grade, we know that students are identifying the careers that they are interested in and those they don’t want to pursue. CareerSpark provides interactive activities to help drive students’ aspirations and expose them to our region’s critical careers”

Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council

 “Union Pacific is proud to support CareerSpark as it launches this year’s virtual platform,” said Scott Moore, senior vice president-Corporate Relations, chief administrative officer, and Union Pacific Foundation President.  “The platform provides a great service to a community where our employees live and work by inspiring eighth graders to explore exciting careers and setting them on a path towards future success and prosperity.”

“One of the core philanthropic missions at PNC is to support educational programs for youth in our community,” said Brian Ray, PNC regional president for Central Illinois. “We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, and events such as CareerSpark can really open the eyes of our local children to a host of traditional and non-traditional pathways for their future.” 

“Bayer is focused on improving lives in the communities where we operate.  The Bayer Fund provides a means for us to partner with organizations in our community to achieve that mission.  Supporting educational opportunities within our local area allows us to inform students about the career opportunities that are available here in their own community,” said Anna Jahnsen, Site Lead at Mason City & Stonington, IL Bayer Soybean Production Plants. “We’re happy to support Junior Achievement and look forward to participating in the Career Spark event, where we will be sharing with students the work that we do here at Bayer to produce high-quality seed for farmers.”

“We are fortunate to be part of such a generous, talented community that is willing to collaborate for an event of this scale. By providing an opportunity to tangibly explore careers, eighth grade students will have yet another touchpoint to guide them in selecting their high school coursework, paving the way for higher education and training.”

Mary Pille, President of Junior Achievement of Central Illinois

Prior to the event, schools received Junior Achievement Inspire curriculum materials to help teachers prepare their students. This included a career interest assessment and resources for developing career action plans for students. At each industry cluster, there will be a variety of interactive activities that demonstrate real jobs within that industry. To make these activities possible, over 100 regional businesses have committed resources, volunteers and industry experts. For more information on the event, visit www.gpcareerspark.org.

For a sneak peek of the virtual platform, please watch this virtual tour provided by Kari Rauh, our Director of Workforce Solutions.

About PNC Foundation 
The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (www.pnc.com), actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life. 

About the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council
The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council serves Logan, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties, a federally designated five-county Economic Development District. in collaboration with our local economic and workforce development partners, we drive economic growth in Greater Peoria through targeted business and talent development and attraction.

About Junior Achievement of Central Illinois
Junior Achievement of Central Illinois is dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. Their region covers multiple central Illinois counties including Peoria, Woodford, Tazewell, McLean, Logan, and Sangamon, and they are reaching more than 18,000 K-12th grade students per year.