OCEAN CITY – Thousands of eighth-grade students from six counties will visit Ocean City later this month for an interactive career exploration event hosted by Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore.
On Thursday, Feb. 27, the entire eighth-grade population of Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset, Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties will attend the second annual JA Inspire event at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City.
Throughout the course of the day, roughly 3,000 students will interact with representatives from nearly 140 local businesses to learn about various career paths.
“Part of the problem on the Eastern Shore is not that there’s a lack of jobs, but that there’s a lack of people who are trained to do the jobs that exist …,” Junior Achievement’s Development Manager Lisa Thornton said. “So JA Inspire was our answer to the shortage of skilled employees here on the shore.”
Last year, Junior Achievement launched its inaugural JA Inspire event – which featured 95 exhibitors and roughly 1,300 Wicomico County students – at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury. This year, JA Inspire will move to the Ocean City convention center to accommodate the entire eighth-grade population of six counties.
“Last year we used Wicomico County as a pilot program for JA Inspire …,” Thornton said. “Once all the other school districts got word of JA Inspire they said, ‘Our students have to attend this.’ We basically had to move so we could accommodate about 50% more businesses and twice as many students.”
Officials with Junior Achievement said the goal of JA Inspire is to highlight career opportunities on the Eastern Shore and the skills needed to fill those positions. Eighth-graders attending the event will then know what coursework is needed to make their high school careers more relevant.
“It’s important for them to get inspired and figure out what they want to do for a living in the eighth grade,” she said. “If they want to go into a skilled trade then they know to start a CTE program in high school. If they want to be a nurse, they know early enough that they have to do well in math. If they want to go into construction, they know early enough that they have to pay attention in geometry. Waiting until 11th grade is not the answer.”
Thornton said this year’s JA Inspire event will feature nine industries – hospitallity, tourism and food, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled trades, education, law and human services, agriculture, aquaculture and environmental, aeronautics and aerospace, communications, arts, web and IT, utilities, transportation and logistics, financial, professional and business, and health services.
She noted that Junior Achievement is also seeking volunteers to help throughout the day.
“Obviously 3,000 eighth-graders is a lot of kids,” she said. “We’ll need as much help as possible to keep them on task. Also, with 140 businesses there, we want to make sure that every kid that comes to JA Inspire finds a business or career that they love.”
Junior Achievement will host an opening reception for JA Inspire on Feb. 26 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
Thornton said the open house will allow community members, parents, educators, donors and volunteers to see what students will be experiencing on Feb. 27. A kick-off presentation will be held at 5 p.m.
“We want the entire public to be well versed on what skills we need here on the shore and what jobs exist,” Thornton said.
For more information on JA Inspire, or to volunteer, visit www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-easternshore/ja-inspire.