YouthForce NOLA Inaugural Career Expo Draws Over 2000 Students, 60 Businesses
YouthForce NOLA teamed up with Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans and Greater New Orleans, Inc., Thursday, March 9, to host a Career Expo to pair public high school sophomores with health science, information technology, and skilled craft employers.
Xavier University’s Convocation Center buzzed with energy as students engaged with employers to learn about different industries and careers.
“The Career Expo is a great motivational tool for our students,” said Warren Easton Charter HighSchool CEO/Principal Alexina Medley.
A recent study done by Greater New Orleans, Inc. indicates New Orleans will see 70,000 jobs available in the three featured sectors – health science, information technology, and skilled crafts – over the next decade. YouthForce NOLA is an initiative designed to expose New Orleans high school students to these career opportunities and help interested students be more prepared to take advantage of them.
“This event gives our public school students a wonderful opportunity to see the potential outcome of their work in school – whether as doctor, programmer, architect, or carpenter,” said Orleans Parish School Board Member Ethan Ashley. “All of these jobs are here, they’re real, and they’re achievable to our public school students. We must continue to find ways like this to offer opportunities of career exposure.”
The event engaged students. Activities from booth to booth ranged from a CPR dummy; to the saw horses, hammers, and nails in the skilled crafts section; to a fully immersive Virtual Reality gallery, easily one of the most popular displays at the event.
“They mobbed us,” said Kate Voisin, Marketing and Graphic Design Lead at TurboSquid, a local 3D modeling group. “They asked really good questions, too. We got a lot of kids who were artists and wanted to know what they could do with an art degree, so I talked to them about graphic design to help them figure out if that’s something they want to do.”
Students were given booklets that contained scavenger hunts, helping them break the ice and encouraging them to visit booths they may not otherwise have. And many students found some surprises about the job market.
“Many students only know ‘doctor and nurse,'” said Stephanie Moore Kreamer, an Admissions Counselor at the University of New Orleans. “They don’t understand that in medicine, there is a wide range of career options – researcher, nurse practitioner, anesthesiologist – there are so many different levels and fields. I had a young man today ask me if he could get a programming degree then work in the medical field and absolutely that is a thing nowadays. “
Ms. Kreamer wasn’t the only one expanding students’ expectations of what jobs would be available to them in various fields. Victor Chavez with the Carpenters Training Fund of Louisiana helped shift expectations about gender roles in skilled crafts.
“I had a lot of girls who were surprised to learn they could be a carpenter,” said Mr. Chavez. “That was really motivating to me, being able to reach young women who otherwise wouldn’t have considered this as a career path.”
“I’m really glad that YouthForce NOLA and Junior Achievement came together to do this,” said Romell Smith, STEM Academy Director at Landry-Walker. “They’re trying to fill the need for jobs here in the city, and we are trying to help our kids be gainfully employed and contributing citizens here in New Orleans. To me, it’s a great marriage. I can’t wait to see how this comes out next year.”
The Career Expo would not have been possible without the generous support of:
- Bloomberg Philanthropies
- JP Morgan Chase & Co.
- Walton Family Foundation
- City of New Orleans
- United Way of Southeast Louisiana
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- Baptist Community Ministries
- Delta Regional Authority
And the participation of the following companies: