Bridging the Workforce Divide

On February 24, Little Bit will hold our second school-wide What’s Next career fair at Riverview Gardens High School, this time through Google Classroom and virtual breakout “rooms.” Delayed by the pandemic, we’re excited to bring another occasion for students to meet and converse with local businesses, industry reps and post-secondary institutions. The career fairs are one way we are supporting students in carving out a career pathway, while taking an active role in workforce development for the St. Louis area.

“Although COVID has altered the landscape for now, there are gaps that have persisted in our labor force for some time,” says John Pimmel, Little Bit Director of Partnerships and Strategic Planning. He points to to a recent survey by St. Louis Community College, in which 41% of St. Louis employers reported that a shortage of workers with knowledge or skills remains the primary barrier to expanding employment. Skilled trade workers were the most in-demand applicants for companies, followed by patient care and finance and accounting professionals.

“At the same time, we have an unemployment rate among African American young people in St. Louis that is four times their white counterparts,” says Pimmel. “Our desire is to help bridge this divide between students that may not be aware of the opportunities available to them and employers looking for a ready, skilled and inclusive workforce.”

With our What’s Next programming – part of our larger Project Graduation initiative with the Riverview Gardens School District – we aim to not only expose students to potential careers but give them a chance to “try on their futures,” says Pimmel, through summer internships and paid co-op agreements with employers. The plan also includes offering skills seminars, as well as dual credit/enrollment programs with local universities and trade schools, to help build the framework for their success.

Making these plans a reality has involved cultivating many community partnerships, says Pimmel, such as with Ranken Technical College and the Regional Youth Employment Coalition, and not surprisingly has been hampered by the pandemic. “We’re looking forward to our upcoming career fair and anxious to get students back on track.”

Vendor spots are still available for the What’s Next Career Fair, Feb. 24, 9 am-12 pm. Contact us for more information.