At the end of September, Marion County eighth graders gathered at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for JA JobSpark, a massive hands-on career expo put on by a coalition of educators and industry leaders led by Junior Achievement of Central Indiana.
Spanning the entire West Pavilion, representatives from over 100 local businesses in different industry sectors set up interactive experiences and offered their expertise to students as they explored potential careers.
Industry clusters included:
- Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Logistics
- Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
- Architecture, Engineering & Construction
- Business & Finance
- Government, Law & Public Service
- Health & Life Sciences
- Hospitality & Tourism
JA JobSpark was created to gives students a better understanding of the courses they need to take in high school and beyond to identify a clear career path designed around their interests. JA JobSpark sets goals of boosting Marion County graduation rates, developing important skills for Indy students, and connecting them to engaged, passionate professionals. The Hogsett administration’s approach to economic development is similar: encouraging community-based initiatives to drive neighborhood redevelopment, public safety, and workforce development.
“Many kids don’t get the opportunity to see careers in action. The City is excited to focus on workforce development as a tool in an expansive toolkit to break cycles of poverty through supporting educational opportunities like JA JobSpark. A spark can start a fire, turning into a blaze that will end with a fantastic career,” said Ahmed Young, Director of the Office of Education Innovation at the City of Indianapolis.
Accelerate Indy, the new economic development strategy for the Indy region, outlines workforce development as a top priority in order to make Indianapolis a competitive city of the future. Also outlined in Accelerate Indy, developing our already robust advanced manufacturing industry is a main focus to drive Indy’s economy.
Representing the advanced manufacturing industry at JA JobSpark, Kim Brand with 3D Parts Manufacturing, 1stMakersSpace, and Maker Youth Foundation set up a 3D printer to engage students. An innovative entrepreneur, Brand received a microloan, business coaching, and assistance procuring a Kiva Zip loan from the Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services division.
“Making things challenges students to think creatively, solving problems through trial and error. Making is empowering,” Brand says, “The JA JobSpark event was a great way to expose the youth to many different careers that they might not have known existed.” Commenting on the assistance he received from the Indy Chamber, Brand says that the resources their Entrepreneur Services division provides to the small business community throughout the Indy region are an invaluable asset to growing the economy and encourages the next generation to become small business owners. Brand also sits on the EmployIndy board.
Feeling a personal connection to the efforts of Junior Achievement, the Indy Chamber's regional business coach Darice Maxie attended a Junior Achievement event in the eighth grade where she heard from a small business owner. That experience led her to find her passion for entrepreneurship and ignited a lifelong spark.
To learn more about joining the coalition of businesses that comprise JA JobSpark, contact Cindy Kicinski at