The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching repercussions on the workforce, but students who are preparing for their future employment can use this time to think about career opportunities outside of their original thinking. What industries have seen a rise in opportunities in recent years, such as health care and information technology? How can students find

out about these opportunities and whether or not they might be a good fit?

The Toyota Wellspring Education Fund (TWEF) at the CREATE Foundation has been the lead sponsor the last six years for an interactive career expo entitled Imagine the Possibilities (ItP), and they are providing a virtual career expo experience for the second year in a row to tackle these questions and more.

The ItP Career Expo virtual format, which kicks off on Fri., Oct. 1, allows all middle and high school students in Northeast Mississippi to learn about eighteen career pathways. Additionally, students have the opportunity to complete the YouScience assessment to understand the alignment of their interests and aptitudes. The target population for the virtual experience is 10th graders to expose them to options that might lead them to job shadow individuals and/or seek out internship opportunities. By targeting 10th grade students, the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund committee hopes to provide students an opportunity early enough for them to make decisions related to course scheduling.

“Our goal is to make sure students in Northeast Mississippi are exposed to a variety of career opportunities that align with students interests and aptitudes,” shared Greg Pirkle, Toyota Wellspring Education Fund committee member. Pirkle sees the Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo as an authentic engagement opportunity that is a direct partnership between our schools and community. “Every employer in our area has the opportunity to engage in the virtual experience through employees filming mentor for a minute videos. What can we do today to help grow our own

workforce through sharing information about potential careers?”

Takhia Crump, a student at Corinth High School, is interested in pursuing anesthesiology after she graduates from high school. “The Career Expo videos opened up my mind to all the extra possibilities. I could have my own practice, so I could be an entrepreneur in anesthesiology.” Based on being a 10th grader last year and engaging with the virtual resources, Takhia gained enough points to be entered to win an Apple computer as a prize for her efforts, and she was selected as a winner. The sponsorship of the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund as well as the other sponsors will provide Apple product prizes again this year for students in 10th grade. An addition to the virtual experience this year is a leaderboard for 10th grade students that will allow them to see their point progression and comparison with other students across the region as well as at their specific school.

The Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo virtual resources are accessible via a website – www.itpcareerexpo.com – and Imagine the Possibilities app that can be used via Apple and Android products. In order to capture accurate student level data for participation and the 10th grade competition, all users for the virtual experience will need to create a login, even if they created a login last year. Students and parents can then access information all eighteen career pathways with each pathway including a pathway overview video, pathway resources, a “day in the life” videos, mentor for a minute clips, and a podcast.

• Pathway Overview: The pathway overview video includes professionals in Mississippi sharing about their work experience. The core content of these videos is an explanation of the depth and breadth of opportunities, starting salary information, job forecast, and expectations for these types of roles.

• Mentor for a Minute: Similar to the pathway overview videos, the mentor for a minute clips highlight local professionals. These individuals explain in a short clip their organization, role, education, experience, and a day in the life. Additional mentor for a minute resources have been added since last year to expand on this experience.

• Podcasts: The podcast format allows another look into career pathways with a highlight on one individual. These personalized videos dig deeper into career opportunities and pull out more of the narrative related to why individuals in chose a specific career and what steps they took to get where they are today.

Stewart McMillan, the Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo Coordinator, hopes there will be greater participation this year with the online resources, and she would like to challenge community members to ask high school students they interact with at church, sporting events, etc. about their YouScience results and career aspirations. “In order to highlight the importance of this work, our community members can share the value by engaging with our students,” stated McMillan. “Our team is also working on ways we can expand this experience to involve employers and strengthen connections between our business and industry partners and schools to create a win-win experience related to talent pipeline development. We look forward to sharing more soon!”

The Toyota Wellspring Education Fund provides Career Coaches to the eight high schools in Pontotoc, Union, and Lee counties. These Career Coaches are also highlighted in the virtual Career Expo format as they share tips on the resource page related to how to utilize the YouScience assessment as well as develop a resume, interview, and financial literacy skills.

Please learn more about Imagine the Possibilities at https://createfoundation.com. Diamond level sponsors for the expo include the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund, CREATE Foundation, Toyota Mississippi, The People’s Bank of Ripley, North Mississippi Health Services, Caterpillar, Mississippi State University, Franklin Corporation, Renasant Bank, Ross & Yerger, The University of Mississippi, and BNA Bank. In addition to the major sponsors, there are an additional 27 sponsors from around the region. If you would like to sponsor this event or support the expo by creating virtual resources, then please contact Stewart McMillan at stewart@createfoundation.c

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