Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania held its annual career fair at the Monroeville Convention Center.

“With the in-person career fair, we really kind of maxed out at about 2,000 students,” JA director of education Maura Teti said, what with space limitations and the logistics of transporting students through tunnels, over bridges and the like.

This year, more than 19,000 students are registered for the free-of-charge Feb. 26 event, a degree of participation made possible by its being presented virtually.

The 2021 Junior Achievement Inspire Career Fair features 50-plus companies, educational institutions and other entities offering “booths” full of relevant information. Registration is available through Jan. 26.

“There are seven super-easy steps that they complete virtually,” Teti said. “It takes about 30 minutes to set up a booth, and basically they just pick the colors they want. They add their own logos. They upload marketing materials, any documents or videos that they want to record, everything that the students might need to learn about their jobs and their company.

“We always try to encourage companies to talk about jobs that they think they will need to hire for in the next couple of years,” she continued, “because it’s the perfect opportunity for students to learn about what jobs are available to them and what jobs will be available to them.”

Headquartered in South Fayette Township, Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania provides career-oriented educational resources for young people in a geographical region that extends from Greene and Washington counties north to Erie and east toward Johnstown.

“A lot of them have never had a chance to come to our career fair, being so far away. So we’re really excited about this virtual option because it really gives us the ability to reach so many more students,” Teti said, noting the program has been expanded this year to encompass seventh- through 12th-graders. “It’s really important to start talking to students about careers and pathways early on. Even with our general JA programming, we start as early as preschool.”

Along with the company “booths,” the career fair also includes panel presentations on topics such as STEAM education – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Technology – and entrepreneurship.

“Mark Cuban actually gave us a video,” JA communications and marketing manager Kimberly Cowden said about the Mt. Lebanon native and “Shark Tank” star. “We’re going to have a video talking about what Junior Achievement does and nonprofits, in general.”

Following the career fair, students will have 90 days to access its resources.

“If they missed anything or thought of something they wanted to go see, they’ll have time to do that after the fact,” Teti said.

On event day, the virtual platform will be open from 9 a.m. 4 p.m. so students have the flexibility to join the event as their schedules allow. The organizers suggest students spend an hour and a half to two hours on the platform in order to fully explore all the booths and watch the panel videos.

For more information, call Meghan Konsugar, education events coordinator, at 412-208-4747 or email her at mkonsugar@jawesternpa.org.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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