The conventional wisdom has been to wait until youngsters are into their teens or so to start providing them with serious information about what they may want to pursue to earn their livings.
From Marianne Schafer’s perspective, that isn’t necessarily the best idea.
“I was going out to career fairs and recruiting college-age interns for our program at my work, and it made me think that we need to go out at more of a younger age, that students don’t know what they want to do in life,” she said. “They don’t. And they aren’t exposed to enough.”
Her solution was to organize a Career Exploration Fair at Bethel Park’s William Penn Elementary School, which her daughter, Brielle, attended through the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year. In late May, representatives of 43 professions set up tables at the school to provide information for its students, in kindergarten through fourth grade and ages 5 through 10.
“I don’t know of other school districts, but this is the first time Bethel Park has ever done something at this level,” Schafer said.
And as far as she’s concerned, the earlier youngsters start thinking about their career possibilities, the better: According to a report published by Dell Technologies, 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented.
Regarding those that exist now, some were beyond comprehension not so long ago.
“People are being paid for playing video games these days, Schafer said. “You think that you just want to play video games for fun, but there are people who train them to go to competitions.”
Representatives at the fair covered a wide variety of potential careers, including one that’s of particular relevance to Schafer: the military.
“My mom was in the Air Force,” she said, “and she would be proud that I have included her field, as well.”
The day before the fair, William Penn hosted a career assembly with presenters including Megs Yunn, a 2002 Bethel Park High School graduate who founded nonprofit called Beverly’s Birthdays.
“Her story started with her wanted to help,” Schafer said. “When we talked about that with the students: Find the jobs that are worth your help. Is there a need? You want to be able to meet a need out there.”
Further advice for the youngsters:
“Are you good at this job? Is it something that you like? And that’s the main thing at this age. You have to like what you do.”
Schafer was part of a committee of professional women who started planning for the Career Exploration Fair in 2020, when the covid-19 pandemic forced its cancellation.
“We have volunteers who stuck with us, career representatives who stuck with us. And I’m so thrilled it’s coming together today,” she said as the fair finally was about to begin.
She thanked Bethel Park Education Foundation, Bethel Park Community Foundation and William Penn PTO for providing funding, and the school’s principal, Brian Lenosky, for his help in the entire process.
“We have so much support, from facilities to security,” Schafer said. “It has been an amazing experience.”
Harry Funk is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org.