Career Exploration Event Introduces Youth to In-Demand Careers


“The exhibits were like real life job experiences,” said a middle school student. “I thought we were just going to listen to a whole bunch of speakers, but I like how you guys changed it up!”

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, 8500 students participated in the 3rd Annual MiCareerQuest™ at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through hands-on exhibits and conversations with employers, middle and high school students were able to experience first-hand what it’s like to work in West Michigan’s high-demand industries—advanced manufacturing, construction, health sciences and information technology.

According to a 2015 Skills Gap report by Deloitte, nearly 37.5 million Boomers will retire over the next decade and only 21 million workers will enter the workforce to replace them. MiCareerQuest™ addresses this impending workforce shortage by encouraging youth to consider careers in industries they might not have previously considered.

“With an aging workforce on the brink of retirement, employers are concerned about their future workforce,” said Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works!, the agency that coordinates the event. “We need to expose youth to a variety of occupations and career pathways now so that they’re aware of all the possibilities that exist for careers in West Michigan.  MiCareerQuest™ allows students to talk with professionals, ask questions, use the tools of the trade. It gets them thinking about what kind of work might appeal to them and informs decisions that impact their future.”

Planning for the first MiCareerQuest™ began in 2014 in direct response to employers’ critical need for future talent, especially in the skilled trades. The event is a true regional collaborative, pulling together employers, industry councils, the regional workforce agency, regional ISDs and more than 800 volunteers from across the seven-county West Michigan region. Employers, who would normally compete against each other, spend months working together to create interactive exhibits to excite students about careers in their industries.

“The community collaboration, the workforce development and educational partnership is a model that is being replicated throughout our state and recognized nationally,” said Jarrad Grandy, Director of Career Readiness at Kent ISD.

As in year’s past, 100% of the employers surveyed agreed that “MiCareerQuest™ met my expectations.”

“The passion that employers have for their craft is obvious during MiCareerQuest. It’s exciting to be a part of that energy,” said Laura Elsner, Workforce Development Manager at DeWys Manufacturing.

“Getting to impress upon the students the passion we have for our companies and careers makes participating in MiCareerQuest a memorable and worthwhile event. And will no doubt translate into future employees for our industry.”

Students practice drawing blood at MiCareerQuest 2017


8500+ students attended from
83 schools in
West Michigan counties

116 employers highlighting
150+ high-demand occupations
90 unique hands-on exhibits

Learn more about MiCareerQuest at


Read More
School News Network: ‘I Know I’ve Got a Lot to Learn’ Students Explore Possible Futures in MiCareerQuest
MLive: 9000 students engage in interactive career exploration