Summer’s here, and most middle schoolers are taking a break from thinking about school. But your Indy Chamber team is tackling a homework assignment on behalf of local 8th graders before they head back to the classroom this fall – assisting in planning the annual Junior Achievement JA JobSpark program.
JA JobSpark is a hands-on career expo for Marion County 8th graders. The two-day event will take place on September 26th and 27th this year at the Indiana State Fairgrounds; it’s an initiative of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana (JA) with support from a coalition of business and industry leaders, educators, and public sector partners.
JA JobSpark provides students with an up-close, experiential look at Indianapolis companies and the exciting careers that could be in their future…if they study hard, plan ahead, and earn the skills needed to succeed in our fastest-growing industries.
The Indy Chamber is proud to support JA JobSpark, which is a massive undertaking: JA expects nearly 2,000 volunteers to be on hand coordinating the event, representing hundreds of employers, connecting with more than 7,000 students from approximately 50 schools across Central Indiana.
But the effort required for JA JobSpark is exceeded by its impact.
If there’s been one overwhelming finding from two years of analysis and planning that led to the Chamber’s Accelerate Indy agenda, it’s that talent is the top priority for the Indy region. The metropolitan areas with the strongest economies are those with the strongest workforces – business opportunities and investment gravitate to places with large numbers of skilled, smart people.
By getting students excited about high-demand jobs as they prepare for high school, JA JobSpark is an early investment in Indiana’s future workforce. By the time today’s middle school students join the job market, more than 70% of all openings will require education beyond high school – it’s not too early to encourage students to start thinking about a post-secondary plan. .
JA JobSpark focuses on the most critical sectors of our regional economy, so students are exploring areas with plenty of potential – and the areas where a strong pipeline of talent is essential for continued growth. These are the jobs in government, law and public service that keep our cities and state working, and the business and finance professions that supply the brainpower behind our corporate community.
They are the occupations that feed Indiana and the world (Agriculture and Food, Natural Resources), build the homes, offices, factories and infrastructure needed to keep up with regional growth (Architecture, Engineering and Construction). They include the positions that make ‘Hoosier hospitality’ a reality, and keep millions of visitors coming through Indianapolis every year.
JA JobSpark emphasizes the industries that are at the core of our growth plans – advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, technology and logistics. The most innovative areas of these clusters are known as the “advanced industries.” You’ve read about these high-tech fields in other Indy Chamber media, and will recall that the Brookings Institution ranks the Indianapolis metro among the leaders in creating these jobs.
To keep this this momentum going, our workforce has to keep up with advanced industry demand for ‘STEM’ talent. These sectors employ a high percentage of engineers, scientists, technology professionals and other high-skill workers.
STEM occupations are expected to grow faster than overall employment over the next decade, and Indy’s advanced industry strength should mean ample opportunities – but we have to focus now on educating future generations for these jobs. This is where programs like JA JobSpark come in, and why the Indy Chamber is an eager and enthusiastic partner to Junior Achievement.
You can learn more about JA JobSpark at www.jajobspark.org. There’s still time to participate as an employer, joining the other Indy-area businesses that are investing their time in our next generation of workers – and getting a headstart on connecting with tomorrow’s best and brightest.