On March 30th, 2023, over 440 high school students from St. Mary’s, Calvert, and Charles counties attended the first-ever SPARK! Student Career Awareness Fair at the USMSM SMART Building. The event was part of the SoMD 2030 Workforce Development initiative funded by Naval Air Warfare Center Aviation Division (NAWCAD).
Representatives from eight NAWCAD divisions, the Naval Test Wing Atlantic, and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, along with the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, USMSM Matrix Lab, University of Maryland – A. James Clark School of Engineering, St. Mary’s Department of Economic Development, MedStar Hospital and Healthcare, and nine industry partner organizations were present at the event. Their interactive, hands-on booths and activities were manned by over 100 knowledgeable personnel who gave students a firsthand insight into various career opportunities available locally, ranging from STEM to finance, healthcare, skilled trades, and criminal justice.
As buses of students arrived from St. Mary’s, Calvert, and Charles County Public Schools, St. Mary’s Ryken High School, and homeschooled communities, groups were ushered around the exhibitions and labs at a pace that allowed for interactive engagement, hands-on activities, and lots of questions.
“Our Engineers and Recruiters are eager to discuss the engineering solutions we provide to our warfighters and connect with Southern Maryland’s future STEM trailblazers,” said an exhibitor from Precise Systems Inc.
The SPARK! Career Awareness Fair received great feedback from the participants. “It was a huge success! Congrats to Jen and The Patuxent Partnership! The students were engaged and asked great questions. The future is bright!” said the St. Mary’s County Economic Development.
The event was a collaboration between the entire community, including leadership from Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s County Public Schools, St. Mary’s Ryken High School, and homeschooled communities. The Navy, along with industry and community partners, brought the fair to life with their interactive booths and eager staff answering students’ questions.
“This inaugural fair was a huge success. The busloads of students that were dropped off were a testimony to that. The Navy, along with industry and community partners, brought the fair to life with their interactive booths and their staff eagerly answering the myriad of questions asked by the students. This fair would not have been nearly as successful without the support of the NAWCAD Strategic Education Office, NAWCAD leadership, and the entire TPP staff,” said Jennifer Brown, Workforce Development and TPP Programs Director and organizer of SPARK! Career Fair.
Having the event at the USMSM SMART building enabled students to see the amazing resources housed there. Brown also invited those who didn’t participate to contact her to get on the list for next year.
The inaugural SPARK! Career Awareness Fair was a huge success, and it provided high school students with an opportunity to explore various career options and engage with knowledgeable personnel from different industries. It was an excellent initiative to develop the workforce and connect students with local career opportunities.