After months of planning and a broadening of its focus, Montgomery County’s large and always successful high school career expo has made its return.
The “Careers of Tomorrow Expo,” held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Upper Providence, gave high school students from across Montgomery County an opportunity to learn about careers and their career paths. An estimated 1,000 students, along with parents and educators and about 100 exhibitors attended.
Previously known as ManuFest and More, the event was last held in 2019 — then put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, the county’s Business and Education Partnership funding “pivoted to support interactive online career education,” Valerie Arkoosh, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Commissioners, told exhibitors before the event got underway on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
Michael Pieson, right, field development manager for Tustin Mechanical Services speaks with attendees at the Careers of Tomorrow Expo about jobs and the company’s apprenticeship program. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP PHOTO)
“The county understands the importance of a strong partnership between businesses and educators. The partnership shapes our future workforce, stimulating economic growth throughout the county and the region,” she added.
Valerie Arkoosh, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, speaks on Oct. 25 at the opening of the Careers of Tomorrow Expo. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP PHOTO)
Dan Kuba, acting deputy secretary of Workforce Development for Pennsylvania, also attended, saying events like the Careers of Tomorrow Expo allow students to “see what is possible.”
“Bringing together employers — bringing together our youth, is one of the most important avenues we take,” Kuba said in remarks highlighting the importance of supporting young workers and their contributions to Pennsylvania’s workforce.
Kuba said Pennsylvania has a “very tight” labor market right now, with an unemployment rate that is the lowest it’s been “since the seventies.”
“We have to look at other opportunities, we have to look at other ways of educating the population and it starts right here. It starts with our youth.
“We have to employ strategies and ideas to get youth thinking about things they’re passionate about and the careers that fit within those passions and then giving them the tools to come out and experience it,” he said.
Dan Kuba, acting deputy secretary of Workforce Development for Pennsylvania, speaks Oct 25 at the opening of the Careers of Tomorrow Expo. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP PHOTO)
Hosted by MontcoWorks and the Montgomery County Commerce Department, the event was revamped this year to include representatives from industries that are considered economic drivers for Montgomery County.
Jennifer Butler, Montgomery County’s director of workforce development, said broadening the scope of the event was important and was a “reaction to the pandemic” and reflecting an increased need for skilled workers in many areas.
“So, we opted to rebrand and bring them all in under one roof,” she said.
In addition to promoting careers in manufacturing and buildings trades, Butler said exhibitors included representatives from healthcare, energy, social assistance, information technology, public service, education and other industries that have a critical need to develop a talent pipeline in the county.
The event took a three-pronged approach, giving students, parents and teachers an opportunity to:
• Explore activities and how things are made in your community
• Learn about career pathways in various sectors
• Network with area employers and training providers to make connections for possible work-based learning experiences as well as job opportunities
“The Business Education Partnership is a concept that makes sense. There are no boundaries that revolve around this concept. We’re getting business together with education and targeting our youth and providing opportunities,” Kuba added. “We’re very proud of the work local areas do, but it’s also connecting these activities, these job fairs, and career fairs with our other educational opportunities.”
Kuba said there are apprenticeship grants throughout the Commonwealth that offer “earn while you learn opportunities,” as well as higher education opportunities.
“We have to look at what our youth need and provide that pathway — higher education and college isn’t for everyone,” he added.
Ken Lawrence, vice chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners, praised a program book created for the event and given to every attendee, highlighting 25 “careers of tomorrow” that offer sustainable wages, strongly predicted local growth and require a bachelor’s degree or less.
“Careers that are not only promising for students but are essential to a thriving local economy,” Lawrence said.
That booklet is available online by visiting https://montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/36780/Careers-of-Tomorrow-Guide-2022—Final
Commissioner Joe Gale said it’s critical the economy stays strong in Montgomery County.
“That is what today is all about — to make sure that we have a future workforce that meets the demands of the jobs needed,” he said. “It’s important that our younger generation learns where the demands are so we can fill those spots.”
The first ManuFest event was held in 2014. At its inception, it was a manufacturing-specific career fair that was developed in direct response to an urgent request from local manufacturers for help in developing a talent pipeline to offset an aging labor force. What started as a small-scale event designed to engage students, parents and educators around manufacturing as a rewarding career pathway slowly grew each year to respond to the needs of employers in both manufacturing and the building trades, becoming ManuFest & More.
In 2019 — the last year it was held — more than 1,200 students attended the sixth annual event held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. A Healthcare Expo was held at Montgomery County Community College in 2019, attracting an additional 600 attendees — another “hands-on” way for Montgomery County students to experience a range of potential career paths.