Hillsborough School Board member Melissa Snively (left) and Brandon High School Principal Jennifer Sparano are set to be involved with the Future Fair set for Wednesday, April 15, for Armwood, Bloomingdale and Brandon High School students.

By Linda Chion Kenney

The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce is working with the newly formed nonprofit Workforce Development Partners Corp. to ensure students not bound for college have good paying jobs with career-focused futures.

The nonprofit is behind the Future Career Academy taking root in Hillsborough County schools, which grew organically from a 2015 career fair at Plant City High, then organized by the Plant City Economic Development Corporation.

Today, four clusters of schools are involved, with Future Fair dates set for them all, including Wednesday, April 15 at The Regent for the Brandon cluster (Armwood, Bloomingdale and Brandon High Schools) and Thursday, April 23 at HCC Trinkle Center for the Plant City cluster (Simmons Career Center and Durant, Plant City and Strawberry Crest High Schools).

According to Yvonne Fry, a founding member of the Plant City Development Corp. and the driving force behind Workforce Development Partners, the overall aim is “to change the paradigm of what success looks like” for high school students, who mostly do not go on to earn college degrees.

“Success,” Fry said, “is no debt, a good salary with a great company, benefits and opportunities for advancement.”

Leading the interest for the chamber is its Education and Workforce Connections Council, chaired by Past Brandon Chamber Chair and Hillsborough School Board member Melissa Snively. In 2018, the council hosted the Great American Teach-In Career Expo at Brandon High to connect students to career and job training opportunities close to home.

“I loved it,” said student Isaiah York, then a junior. “The resources were very useful to help students learn the paths to success and the opportunities available.

Now, working with Workforce Development Partners, chamber officials embrace the nonprofit’s integrated approach, which includes classroom studies for job searching and readiness skills, an application-based field trip to local businesses, the Future Fair in April and a ‘Signing Day’ celebration in May for hired students at their respective schools.

The East Tampa cluster is taking shape with Middleton High, where the Future Fair date is Tuesday, April 21. The South Hillsborough cluster is emerging with Lennard High in Ruskin, where the fair date is Tuesday, April 28.

To learn more and for business and community partnership opportunities, visit www.thefuturefairacademy.com.