Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas had to cancel its annual Charlotte Career Discovery Day program because of COVID-19, which traditionally has been its largest event of the year with a projected attendance of 10,000 people. As a result, the organization saw a vacuum for career exploration curriculum within middle and high school students.
Determined to still provide hands-on curriculum programs to prepare individuals for the workforce, Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas invested in new technology to develop a virtual program called JA Ignite. Launched in March 2021, the curriculum addresses career exploration standards as mandated by the Department of Public Instruction for North and South Carolina.
“This program was developed over the summer months as a bridge and response to the COVID-19 pandemic since students still need hands-on learning experiences but are learning from home,” said Kelly Zeigler, Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas’ Grants Contractor.
The JA Ignite program will give opportunities for students to conduct career research and preparation, understand the training and education needed for a variety of jobs, and learn from professionals in the industry.
The City of Charlotte awarded Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas COVID-19 relief funding to help the organization pivot to virtual services to help continue preparing students for careers.
The Workforce Partners Support Grant helped fund operational and technology expenses for the JA Ignite program, including upgraded hardware and software, licensing agreements, program advertising, and technical support/training for the program.
“This bold initiative will inspire and prepare 12,000 middle and high school youth for career and economic success,” Zeigler said.
The funding will provide students the opportunity to be a part of a virtual career fair and interact with dozens of regional businesses that will share what they are looking for in employees. Additionally, students can download job applications and watch “day-in-the-life” videos of various jobs.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas enhanced the learning experience to reach more students.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we could curb potential ‘learning loss’ and provide students, teachers, and parents with over 100 lessons at no cost,” Zeigler said. “We see this crisis as an opportunity to improve our relationship with volunteers, teachers, and others in the community who support our work through phone calls and video conferencing.” As Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas looks toward the future, the organization is preparing to host its first-ever virtual JA Ignite. In the months leading up to the event, over 100 corporate, education, and government agencies joined as partners in the effort. The new virtual event speaks to JA’s strong leadership and community support, ensuring that JA’s vital programming will continue to support students exploring their career journey.
Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas received a Workforce Partners Support Grant from the City of Charlotte’s Open for Business initiative. Through the grant program, the City of Charlotte has awarded $3.5 million to workforce partners to provide programs for our community