After months of planning and expanding focus, the large and always successful Montgomery County High School Career Fair is back.
The Careers of Tomorrow Expo, held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Upper Providence, gave high school students from across Montgomery County the opportunity to learn about careers and their career paths. According to estimates, about 1,000 students, as well as parents and teachers, and about 100 exhibitors participated in the exhibition.
The event, formerly known as ManuFest and More, was last held in 2019, when it was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, funding from the county’s Business and Education Partnership “has been directed to support online interactive career education,” Valerie Arkush, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Commissioners, told attendees before the event on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
“The district understands the importance of a strong partnership between business and educators. The partnership is shaping our future workforce, driving economic growth throughout the county and region,” she added.
Dan Kuba, Pennsylvania’s Acting Under Secretary for Workforce Development, was also in attendance, saying events like the Careers of Tomorrow Expo allow students to “see what’s possible.”
“Bringing employers together – bringing our youth together is one of the most important ways we do business,” Cuba said in comments emphasizing the importance of supporting young workers and their contributions to Pennsylvania’s workforce.
Cuba said the job market in Pennsylvania is “very tight” right now, with unemployment at its lowest level since the 1970s.
“We have to look for other opportunities, we have to look for other ways to educate the public, and that’s where it starts. It starts with our youth.
“We need to use strategies and ideas to get young people thinking about the things they are passionate about and the careers that match those passions, and then give them the tools to go out and experience it,” he said.
Hosted by MontcoWorks and the Montgomery County Department of Commerce, the event was revamped this year to include representatives from industries considered to be Montgomery County’s economic engines.
Jennifer Butler, Montgomery County’s director of workforce development, said the expansion was important and is a “response to the pandemic” and reflects the increased need for skilled workers in many industries.
“So we decided to rebrand and bring them all under one roof,” she said.
In addition to promoting careers in manufacturing and construction, Butler said the expo included representatives from health care, energy, social care, information technology, public service, education and other industries that have a critical need to develop the county’s talent pipeline.
The event had a three-pronged approach, giving students, parents and teachers the opportunity to:
• Research activities and how things are done in your community
• Learn about career paths in different sectors
• Liaising with area employers and training providers to make connections for possible on-the-job training as well as employment opportunities
“Business education partnerships are a concept that makes sense. There are no boundaries around this concept. We create business with education and focus on our youth and provide opportunities,” added Kuba. “We’re very proud of the work that local districts are doing, but it’s also connecting these events, these job fairs and job fairs to our other educational opportunities.”
Cuba said there are training grants throughout the Commonwealth that offer “earning opportunities while you study” as well as higher education opportunities.
“We need to look at what our young people need and provide that pathway — higher education and college are not for everyone,” he added.
Ken Lawrence, vice chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners, praised the program book created for the event and given to each attendee, highlighting 25 “careers of tomorrow” that offer stable earnings, accurately predict local growth and require a bachelor’s degree or less.
“A career that is not only promising for students, but also important to a thriving local economy,” Lawrence said.
This booklet is available online by visiting https://montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/36780/Careers-of-Tomorrow-Guide-2022—Final
Commissioner Joe Gale said Montgomery County’s economy remains strong.
“That’s what we’re talking about today – to have a workforce that meets the demands of the jobs we need in the future,” he said. “It’s important that our younger generation learns what the requirements are so we can fill those positions.”
The first ManuFest event was held in 2014. Originally a manufacturing-focused job fair, it was developed in direct response to a strong request from local manufacturers for help developing a pipeline of talent to offset an aging workforce. What began as a small event designed to engage students, parents and educators in manufacturing as a rewarding career has grown each year to meet the needs of employers in both manufacturing and construction, becoming ManuFest & More.
In 2019 — its final year — more than 1,200 students attended the sixth annual event, held at the Greater Philadelphia Convention Center. In 2019, Montgomery County Community College hosted a Healthcare Expo that attracted an additional 600 attendees—another “hands-on” way for Montgomery County students to gain access to a variety of potential career paths.