Inaugural GP CareerSpark Connects Region’s Students With Career Possibilities

Inaugural GP CareerSpark connects region’s students with career possibilities

On October 23 and 24, over 3,400 eighth graders from 44 schools in the five-county Greater Peoria region descended on the Peoria Civic Center to attend the inaugural GP CareerSpark.

The event gave each student the opportunity to explore 16 career pathways within the eight industry clusters represented at the interactive expo.  A range of hands-on activities allowed the students to gain more understanding of what daily work life holds in numerous professions.

Students encountered non-stop activity as they rotated through four zones spread throughout the convention halls.  Each zone contained two of the eight industry clusters: Health & Life Sciences; Arts, Technology & Communication; Architecture, Engineering & Construction; Government, Law & Public Service; Business & Finance; Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Logistics; Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; and Hospitality & Tourism.

Hands-on Career Exploration

Each industry team created numerous interactive activities to engage the students.  In one zone, groups of students learned the basics of CPR while others explored the ins-and-outs of emergency vehicles.  Across the room in manufacturing, students pieced together wooden automobile prototypes and played catch with robots.  In the healthcare corner, students tested their surgical skills on a pile of hard candies using advanced medical devices.  In the business section, volunteers sparked the students’ entrepreneurial spirits with a mock “Shark Tank” contest.

Students attending the 2017 Greater Peoria CareerSpark get a glimpse into health and life sciences careers.GP CareerSpark was developed in partnership with Junior Achievement of Central Illinois and modeled on the successful JA JobSpark expo in Indianapolis.  Along with planning and implementation support, Junior Achievement provided the schools with in-classroom curriculum to extend the career development conversation beyond the walls of the Peoria Civic Center.

Career Pathways for Greater Peoria’s Students

This event, which the Greater Peoria EDC will continue to organize annually, is just one piece of the broader GP Pathways initiative, a regional collective impact strategy aimed at improving the workforce pipeline within Greater Peoria.

Students attending the 2017 Greater Peoria CareerSpark get a glimpse into advanced manufacturing careers.

Through GP Pathways, numerous regional partners — including the Greater Peoria EDC, Illinois Central College, Junior Achievement, regional K-12 school districts, and many more — are working together to improve students’ understanding and navigation of the education pathways necessary to pursue lucrative career opportunities in Greater Peoria.  This multi-faceted initiative will also help build a large and diverse workforce for our region’s employers.

The Greater Peoria EDC looks forward to hearing from our partners and participating schools to understand the impact of the first-ever GP CareerSpark and find ways to improve the event next year.  Thank you to our leading GP CareerSpark sponsors Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois Department of Employment Security, PNC and the many other sponsors for their support.  And thank you to the 400 volunteers and thousands of participants for making this important event such a huge success!

Follow Up!

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If you volunteered, please take a moment to complete this quick survey.

If your school participated and you have not yet received follow-up survey information, please contact Kate Cundiff, Director of Workforce Solutions, at

If you would like a copy of the GP CareerSpark program booklet, download it here.  It contains some cool information on the various career pathways including salary ranges in relation to education levels.

Students attending the 2017 Greater Peoria CareerSpark get a glimpse into advanced manufacturing careers.