Challenges are not new to the people who live and work in western Pennsylvania, so when COVID-19 upended what activities take place during a normal school year, local workforce and education leaders addressed it as an opportunity to rethink their annual Business & Industry Career Fair. “The Fair is an opportunity for our 10th grade students to explore different careers and speak directly to local businesses, so we felt it was important to keep as much of that interaction as we could,” said Dawn McFall of West Central Job Partnership, the local Workforce Development Board.
On October 29th, WCJP and the Lawrence County School-to-Work enlisted Edge Factor, an eLearning platform, to host the county’s first live virtual Career Fair. This event has been held in-person for the past 12 years and is something the schools in Lawrence County always look forward to taking their students to. This year, due to COVID, we knew an in-person event was not going to be possible so we had to get creative in coming up with something that would still allow the students to have that experience. Working with the team at Edge Factor was fantastic. They walked us through the processes from beginning to end, providing trainings and written guides for all involved, making the project a success!
Lynda Jaworski-Rapone, the Executive Director of Lawrence County School-To-Work, Inc., said “One goal of Lawrence County School-To-Work, Inc. is providing career exploration experiences for students in Lawrence County, PA and surrounding areas. This year, the experience moved to the virtual world. My vision for the students was: to learn about career pathways within our community to remain local post graduation building a workforce; interact “Live” with local company representatives; and hear keynote speaker, Jeremy Bout, on how he transferred skills from manufacturing to entrepreneurship as founder/owner of Edge Factor.”
The students were able to listen to a prerecorded keynote presentation by Jeremy Bout, the founder of Edge Factor. Jeremy told how the students a bit about his career journey, starting out in manufacturing and ultimately creating Edge Factor. He then reviewed five Industry Sectors in Lawrence County that the students would be able to explore. These five areas were selected since they offer the most opportunity for employment in the county. These included Advanced Manufacturing, Finance, Architecture and Construction, Health Care, and Information Technology. Jeremy finished his presentation by discussing transferable skills, emphasizing “Problem solvers are gold!”
Aside from the prerecorded keynote the students were able to interact with 17 exhibitors utilizing Microsoft Teams. Local employers and post-secondary providers generously donated their time throughout the day to talk with the students about career opportunities. The feedback from both the students and exhibitors was very positive. Initial numbers show we reached over 500 students and educators the day of the event.
In addition to the interaction with the live exhibitors the website has a multitude of other career videos that the students and parents can explore. The platform will remain open to our schools through the end of December. The link to the website is www.edgefactor.com/2020LC-careers
Dawn McFall is the Youth Career Coordinator with West Central Job Partnership. In her role she is responsible for creating partnerships between our local workforce and the school districts to help students identify potential academic and career options. She also assists with recruitment of out-of-school and reentry youth for the same purposes.