On October 8th and 9th, over 4,600 eighth grade students from across nine counties across the region came to the Peoria Civic Center and participated in our 3rd annual CareerSpark Expo. This incredible collaboration between the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and Junior Achievement of Central Illinois is provided free of charge to regional schools through the generous support of PNC Bank, Bayer, the Illinois Manufacturing Association, Union Pacific, and the Peoria Civic Center.
One of the core philanthropic missions at PNC is to support educational programs for youth in our community. As we believe that every student deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, 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,” says Brian Ray, regional president at PNC Bank.
Students attending CareerSpark explored over 90 careers through interactive, hands-on activities. These activities were provided by over 100 unique industry partners from across our region’s most important sectors such as Healthcare, Agriculture, Construction, Business/Finance, Government and Public Safety, Arts, and Information Technology, and Engineering/Manufacturing.
Manufacturers in the Greater Peoria area have long known the importance of making young people aware of the wide array of career opportunities available in manufacturing,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “We are proud to be able to continue being among the leading supporters of CareerSpark.”
CareerSpark is designed to give students a hand-ons look into the careers students may have never known existed and how they can begin planning their career path. CareerSpark is intentionally targeted towards eighth grade students because
We know that students in middle school are making decisions about careers, most specifically what careers they don’t want to pursue, CareerSpark provides an opportunity to explore and begin making more informed decisions as they look toward high school,” says Brent Baker, Director of Workforce Solutions at the GPEDC.
One of the industries that came out in force this year was our Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster, thanks to supporters like Bayer. Anna Jahnsen, Bayer Site Lead at Mason City explains,
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. We’re happy to support CareerSpark, where we have the opportunity to expose students to the work that we do here at Bayer to produce high quality seed for farmers.”
As a critical piece to our regional workforce development pipeline, CareerSpark is more than just a stand alone event. With new college and career readiness outcomes for K-12 schools, CareerSpark is just the beginning of a larger effort that also includes high school career pathways, financial literacy education, high school internships and more.
Union Pacific is proud to support CareerSpark, helping students discover careers that will open doors to their future,” said Scott Moore, senior vice president-Corporate Relations, chief administrative officer, and Union Pacific Foundation President. “Putting youth on the path toward success brings economic prosperity and well-being to communities where our employees live and work.”
Over the course of two days, over 400 industry professionals give their time to support the development of our local career pipeline. Without the support of these volunteers, CareerSpark would not be possible.
We are fortunate to be part of such a generous, talented community that is willing to collaborate for an event of this scale. Our sponsors and our volunteers give these 8th grade students another touch point to help guide them in selecting their high school coursework, paving the way for higher education and training,” said Mary Pille, President of Junior Achievement of Central Illinois.