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“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question posed countless times to our region’s youth as they pursue their secondary education even though many do not know what their future holds or have the means to explore the multitude of career options available to them.  As a way to help students begin a meaningful process of career exploration, students in Florida are required to experience workforce education training and start formulating an answer to this question in eighth grade. It is important for students to be introduced to the vast number of career opportunities early on so that they are able to explore relevant educational options in high school and beyond, whether their pathway includes an apprenticeship offered by a local company or earning a credential or degree from one of Northeast Florida’s outstanding state colleges or universities.

According to the Florida Department of Education, a student must successfully complete one course in career and education planning in order to be promoted to high school. This course helps students create academic and career plans, emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurship and employability skills and informs them of requirements for graduation, scholarships and early college credit courses.

School districts across the state have the freedom to incorporate this course into their curricula however they choose. For example, Duval County Public Schools partners with Junior Achievement of North Florida, a national nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and prepare young people for success. Junior Achievement offers a variety of materials for all grade levels that discuss financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness.

Earn Up partners with Junior Achievement of North Florida to educate eighth graders on available career opportunities. As part of the in-class curriculum, students go through a module on the Earn Up Career Pathways to gain exposure to the region’s industries and explore future job options. Earn Up provides Career Pathways for the five target industries of the Northeast Florida region—Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Transportation & Logistics, Financial Services, Health & Biomedical and IT Innovation—as well as other support industries.

The in-class curriculum leads up to JA Inspire, a virtual career fair designed to allow personal and impactful interactions between students and employers. The featured industry clusters include arts and creative, construction and manufacturing, STEM and several others. In the virtual convention center, students move through halls while visiting company booths that are of interest to them. Local companies are able to sponsor a booth where they can upload “day in the life videos,” educational pamphlets, resume tips and career stories. Students can also watch five-minute webinars in the virtual auditorium. JA Inspire is available for students to revisit throughout the school year as they continue the career planning process, and it is a great way for local companies to showcase their businesses to potential future employees.

Our goal is to help students understand all the opportunities that await and engage them with experiences that help them discover their passions. The Northeast Florida region is abundant with career opportunities and Earn Up is committed to supporting the community-based programs and educators who prepare our eighth grade students for a bright future.