On September 18th and 19th, over 5,000 Seventh Graders from the region will converge on the Salem Civic Center to learn about the variety of future careers that await them in the inaugural Career Quest event.
These young people will be able to connect with over forty of the region’s premier businesses from across 16 career clusters and learn more about what is actually involved in working in those industries. This first of its kind event for the region is being put on by the Blue Ridge, New River-Mount Rogers and Central Regions of Virginia Career Works with support from many community partners.
Starting in the last several years, all 7th graders in the State of Virginia must now pick a career path to guide the rest of their schooling. Career Quest is designed to give these young people as much hands-on information as possible before they make this decision. “This will be a great experience for the students as they begin exploring career pathways and allows them to become exposed to opportunities that exist in our region.” says Mike Ketron, Supervisor of CTE and Adult Education for Botetourt County Public Schools.
With the unemployment rate for the region dipping below 3%, many businesses are struggling to fill openings and are excited by the opportunity to show younger people that they have so many options locally. The participating businesses know that building and sustaining our region’s talent pipeline is vital for their continued success.
They also recognize that there is a need to educate students about what work looks like these days. “Many people, young and old, don’t understand what modern manufacturing or construction looks like and/or just don’t know how many openings there are,” says Morgan Romeo, Executive Director of Virginia Career Works – Blue Ridge.
Area educators are also excited to have the opportunity for their students to experience something new. Despite renewed efforts to talk about all the options available, many students still feel that a degree from a traditional 4-year college is their only option. The region’s school systems have been investing in improving their career and technical education opportunities, but changing the mindset remains perhaps the largest hurdle they face.
In addition to the youth focused portion of the event, the event will be open to the public on the evening of Wednesday, the 18th from 4 – 7 PM and will become one of the largest job fairs in the region. All of the businesses that have been engaging with young people all day will turn their attention to filling the many openings that they have.
This event is made possible by platinum sponsors, GO Virginia and the City of Salem, and many others. This will become an annual event moving forward because as Romeo states, “educating and empowering our potential workforce about their options is the first step in creating a strong workforce and thriving community.”