Over 20,000 seventh through twelfth grade students from across western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia virtually attended the JA Inspire Career Fair hosted by Junior Achievement of Western PA (JA). Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, JA recreated the annual in-person event through virtual event platform vFairs, which digitized the career and college expo experience, complete with a fully interactive auditorium and lobby.
Past in-person career fairs limited the organization’s reach beyond the greater Pittsburgh region due to space and transportation restrictions. By accessing the program through a digital platform, JA has connected with new schools in counties that were unable to attend before.
“By going digital, our student numbers increased 1,200% from last year,” said Patrice Matamoros, President at JA of Western PA. “Our partnership with vFairs has allowed us to maximize touchpoints with the students and educators while introducing parents and guardians to this unique JA program who typically are not involved first-hand.”
Before the event, students complete six JA Inspire lessons, which focus on topics such as career planning, networking and interviewing. The process is designed to help them navigate the event and steer them to the companies that most closely align with their skills and interests.
The interactive career fair exhibits more than 70 organizations from around the region representing sixteen career sectors such as health science, information technology, human services, engineering, and manufacturing. Company booths include videos, downloadable documents, and links featuring overviews of the organization and even current job vacancies.
Inside the virtual auditorium, students can watch pre-recorded webinars that cover a variety of topics on choosing a college, entrepreneurship, and engineering.
Sara Berliner, a seventh and eighth-grade social studies teacher at Propel East, stated that “Students were engaged the entire time and were excited to interact with the information provided. This experience sparked in-depth conversations with the class, allowing students to begin thinking about the vast opportunities that Pittsburgh and our region have to offer.”
While the career fair is a one-day event, students will be able to access the platform for up to three months allowing time to explore and map their educational and career pathway.