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2023 FORGE Your Path Career Expo

The FORGE Foundation is proud to announce its three-day in-person Skilled Trades Career Expo, providing a unique opportunity for approximately 2,500 students from 28 different schools in Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Kemper, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Monroe, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, and Webster counties to explore careers in the skilled trades. This event, hosted in partnership with more than 30 local businesses, organizations, and career technical centers, aims to inspire and equip the next generation of skilled professionals.

The FORGE Your Path Career Expo kicks off at the EMCC Communiversity, on Tuesday, October 24, from 5-7pm as FORGE partners with the Regional Business After Hours event sponsored by the Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, the West Point Growth Alliance, and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. Business leaders and community partners from the Golden Triangle Region will have the opportunity to see the Career Expo firsthand. They can enjoy operating equipment, laying bricks, experience working on a construction site using VR headsets, finishing concrete, and sitting in bulldozers just like the kids. FORGE will also host music from one of their own members, Goodloe Chilcutt with New Home Building Stores. Beginning Wednesday at 7:30 am, the Expo will be hosting students who are coming from 28 public, private, and parochial schools from 10 surrounding counties. The Expo will continue Thursday, running 7:30 am – 3:00 pm. In partnership with the Communiversity at East Mississippi Community College and the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, the Forge Your Path Career Expo was recognized as the 2023 Workforce Program of the Year by AccelerateMS. The goal of the Career Expo is to expose and connect students with the necessary information and tools to explore a career in the skilled trades.

While students are touring the expo on Wednesday, FORGE and MCEF will also host a counselor’s workshop from 8:30 am – 3pm. FORGE feels strongly about influencing the decision makers that actually enroll students in skilled trades courses in our schools. Over 50 high school and middle school counselors from across Mississippi will have the opportunity to interact with multiple panelists who will be discussing important and relatable topics, increase network collaborations, and participate in a guided tour of the expo.

On Wednesday morning, the FORGE Career Expo will also host Middays with Gerard Gibert from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. This Super Talk radio show will broadcast live from the EMCC Communiversity, engaging in discussions about workforce shortages, career and technical education, and the emerging generation of skilled trades professionals.

Founded in 2018, FORGE (Family Organizations Recruiting Great Employees) is comprised of a group of locally owned small businesses, most of which are in their 2nd and 3rd generation of owners. Before founding FORGE, individually these companies were to the point of stealing labor from each other and were defeating their goal of strengthening each other and the community in which they work. They began to work together on determining a more long-term solution, and thus inspired FORGE. Formed with the vision of strengthening the budding partnerships with local schools and being able to help teach students how to one day be ready for the workforce, FORGE allows these companies to now work as a team to help build the workforce of tomorrow.

Katie McCrary, a FORGE founding board member from McCrary-West Construction, shared her perspective, saying, “This expo is a great opportunity for students to learn how to link their current educational outlook to a skilled trade. We want students to learn not only how they can enter these fields but thrive and advance as experts and leaders in these industries. We want to showcase our community as pioneers in developing a workforce pipeline beginning in K-12 and continuing through trade school, community college, or 4-year programs.”

According to Melinda Lowe, FORGE Executive Director, “The participating students are in the 8th grade, a critical age for deciding on career technical programs. FORGE’s dedication to guiding the next generation of tradespeople reflects the commitment of the Golden Triangle community to a shared cause.”

“The Career Expo not only connects students with experts in construction industry, but also showcases how their interests can align with the skilled trades of the future. The trades industry is incorporating cutting-edge technology, including drones, GPS plotting software, robots, and more, to attract young talent and drive regional economic growth,” said Lowe.

Students will have the opportunity to share their contact information with the vendors at the career expo, and EMCC staff will be on hand to assist students in exploring post-secondary education and career paths.

Today’s tradespeople are innovators and entrepreneurs, shaping our economic prosperity and daily lives. The trades serve as the foundation of our communities. For a complete list of FORGE members and more information about the FORGE Foundation, please visit www.forgeyourpath.org.