UK events and experiential design company Ignition has completed a first, an entirely-virtual careers fair for Junior Achievement (JA) JobSpark in Central Indiana in the US. The event introduced thousands of American 8th grade students to potential careers across eight key industry sectors and helped ensure JA’s ongoing mission to inspire students’ future career choices was maintained during the Covid-19 crisis.
“Junior Achievement is the charity Ignition’s US office had previously chosen to support,” says Carrie Logie, chief operating officer of Ignition’s Indianapolis office, “and they have a fantastic reputation in Indianapolis, which also made this project one that was particularly close to our hearts”.
Both Ignition’s UK and US offices were involved in the design of the new virtual project, which represented over 100 potential employers, either based or represented in Central Indiana. The project combined the company’s physical stand design expertise and digital/virtual innovations to create a fully immersive experience.
The virtual event replaced the physical event and Ignition has now been commissioned to create two further JA JobSpark Virtual events for JA’s Northern Indiana and Southwestern Indiana regions in spring 2021, as well as a JA career fair event aimed at Central Indiana high school students.
Junior Achievement was founded in 1919 as a not-for-profit organisation and has 109 local JA Areas across the United States. It is the nation’s largest organisation dedicated to providing young people knowledge and skills for future career success.
JA JobSpark Virtual gathered a coalition of educators and industry leaders coming to offer students the opportunity to learn about careers from industry representatives in time to begin planning for their high school course work and better preparing them for life after high school graduation. The two-day event will be formally integrated into the school curriculum, with 24/7 access to the JA JobSpark Virtual Platform after the live event finishes, with corporate partners also able to add recorded presentations and videos throughout the year for expanded 24/7 student access.
The virtual event started with an animated fly-through showing the approach to the real, physical venue (the Indiana State Fairgrounds) where the live event had traditionally been held, before landing in a virtual event hall, where a map offered the choice of eight different career ‘clusters’.
By clicking on any logo in any room, pupils were free to roam and to enter the virtual space to access PDFs and videos sharing information regarding careers in that company and sector, with information on what jobs might be possible, along with practical information on salary, training and skill levels. The goal was to enable students to make more informed choices about subjects they may choose to study. For potential employers, various levels of participation and sponsorship were possible, including advertising on a moving LED banner for adverts for those not taking on a full presence within one of the clusters.
Virtual presentations with industry representatives were linked to the event, including twenty live speaker sessions held in a virtual auditorium with Q&As. Questions were monitored by JA facilitators to ensure user safety, with students’ own cameras disabled.
“We made sure we were available at all times”, Ignition’s Carrie Logie explained, “to support our client and their guests and to ensure proactively that everything was functioning properly.”
Over 7,000 users accessed the first event over two days, with over 11,000 total visits and an average dwell time of 24 minutes.
Alex Saxon, digital project director at Ignition’s UK office, said the live sessions were followed by huge numbers of questions – “far more than expected in fact, showing that the virtual environment in some ways liberated students from being self-conscious about asking for information. Because digital projects provide a breadth and depth of user analytics, we’re able to review and improve constantly and, combining this with user research, we look to make the next events even better, with more added gamification elements to make the experience as much fun as possible for students.”