‘EPIC’ is Central Minnesota’s Answer to Career Exploration and Retention of Homegrown Talent
26 Oct 2022
EPIC is more than an acronym a community-created event for Central Minnesota high school students — Exploring Potential Interests & Careers — it’s a well-deserved accolade. Going into its third year, this massive, engaging, experiential event focuses on bridging education and industry for students in a meaningful way. Not only does this benefit them, but it contributes to the fulfillment of the economic and workforce needs of the region.
EPIC is aimed at 10th-grade students, though high schools can choose who attends based on their curriculum and how and where career exploration is introduced. Students have signed up through their schools for the Friday, October 28, 2022, event at the St. Cloud Technical & Community College. A printable list of student activities can be found here.
“United Way is one of many partners in Central Minnesota that brought this event to our community with the goal of supporting young people to have the opportunity to have hands-on experiences with the variety of career fields and industries in Central Minnesota,” said Amy Trombley, Vice President of Education, United Way of Central Minnesota.
“Through data and community conversations, we recognized as a community the need to support young people in having opportunities to explore careers, see what might pique their interests, and provide additional connections and pathways for them as they envision the variety of career paths ahead of them,” continued Trombley. “By providing these kinds of experiences, young people are able to identify what they do enjoy, and also perhaps what they aren't interested in. They can ask questions, create community connections and continue a more focused exploration after the event based on their experiences.”
Trombley said EPIC was modeled after a similar event in the Brainerd area called Bridges Career Exploration Day but that they tailored EPIC to the unique attributes of the community in Central Minnesota.
The event is a massive undertaking. “There will be 4,100 students from over 29 area high schools from 22 towns and ten counties receiving hands-on experiences,” said Trombley. “There are over 130 businesses involved in the event with over 300 volunteers, coordinators, and sponsors. It is an EPIC undertaking to bring this all together, but our community is passionate about its success and the success of our young people.”
Anna Gruber, City Administrator for the City of Sartell, works the event. “I have always been committed to helping young people realize career opportunities in public administration. EPIC is a great way for us to share all the different career sectors so young adults can make informed decisions about their post-secondary plans. I wish they had this when I was in high school! It is also a great way for employers to get in front of future workers, which is becoming more and more important as we face workforce shortages.”
EPIC is a uniquely beneficial workforce development collaboration for businesses, education, and economic development. “This event aims not only to support young people in their career paths, but it supports our business and industry partners in having essential conversations with attendees about the careers that are in high demand, the local opportunities available, salary, and other information that is important while selecting a career pathway,” said Trombley. “There are many times young people aren't aware of all that happens and is available for them right here in Central Minnesota. Providing that awareness for them at these formative stages can support our workforce in retaining homegrown talent in support of workforce development.”
October is Manufacturing Month, and EPIC has experiences galore to introduce students to the “STEM and Manufacturing” cluster. “STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, are all very integral in the skills, knowledge, and application within the manufacturing career field,” said Trombley. “Many of the skills used in one area, math, for example, are also critical and necessary in manufacturing within production or quality control.”
Actual local employers present numerous career clusters represented through engaging hands-on activities that are maybe unexpected. For “Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources,” students can interact with an alpaca and experiment with a candy-powered “nuclear” reactor. For “Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics,” folks can operate a full-sized skid loader right from their cell phones. “Health Science” has a birth simulation. The list goes on and on!
Adults who support students are welcome to their own event, EPIC for Influencers, on Tuesday, November 15, from 4–7 p.m., on the St. Cloud Technical & Community College campus. While participants will see examples of the hands-on activities students engaged in at the one-day EPIC event, the Influencer event focuses on deep, meaningful conversations to help adults learn how to support students as they explore career options.
“We held our first ever EPIC for Influencers event in March of 2022 with great success,” said Trombley. “We had over 100 people attend, ranging from parents, educators, community advocates, and caring adults. Many of them brought a young person with them to have much more focused and supportive conversations about how we can all support young people on their career paths, including discussions around internships and local opportunities and the types of post-secondary options that will support them in meeting their career goals.”
“We also want to thank all of our financial sponsors,” said Trombley. “This event needs funding to fuel some of the basic logistics. While most of the event is developed through the contributions of time and talent, the financial investment to help this event live beyond the one day is greatly appreciated. We continue to seek out additional sponsors as the EPIC initiative grows into year-long opportunities.”
“The endeavor truly is EPIC and has grown beyond the one-day event,” continued Trombley. “The one-day event is a launch to so many other EPIC initiatives, including EPIC for Influencers, EPIConnect, ExPerIenCe Career Kits, and Career Exploration Posts.”
Volunteers are still welcome! “We would still love to have additional volunteers supporting the logistics of the day, from helping students find their way around to helping businesses set up,” said Trombley. “It's definitely an 'all hands-on deck' kind of day!” Volunteer spots that still need to be filled can be found here.
Follow EPIC on Facebook for updates and share the EPIC for Influencers event flyer with anyone who may impact young people in the community as they explore their futures. Brush up on Minnesota career fields, clusters, and pathways with EPIC’s career wheel.