Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection will launch a new, localized career exploration experience for area high school students Friday, March 5.

TheGameofCareers.com is a website that showcases local industries and careers through interactive online simulations and activities, videos, photos and relevant career information, all in a free, secure setting.

For the past 13 years, Bridges hosted a Career Exploration Day, offering more than 2,500 students from 28 local school districts a unique way to meet business professionals and explore careers. Due to COVID-19 crowd restrictions, Bridges is prevented from hosting this event in 2021.

Despite this, Bridges still wants to offer students the opportunity to explore the hundreds of careers available to them and better understand local career options.

TheGameofCareers.com brings together the best information from Minnesota State’s CAREERwise and the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop websites, as well as input from the local business community and post-secondary partners, to make career information relevant to central Minnesota and our market needs.

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Content is displayed in an engaging, game-like format. Students will receive their login information at their high school. From March 5-26, students will earn points for every exploration activity they experience. Points accumulate into digital Career Badges and provide automatic entry to prize drawings.

This virtual career exploration experience is available 24/7. The password-protected website will lead students to different industries within a community. Each industry will offer background on their field and feature a handful of specific careers. Industry and occupations will be showcased through easy-to-understand descriptions of what each job does, skills and education needed, local salary ranges and local job outlook information, as well as engaging videos and 360 degree “clickable” photos of regional business interiors.

The highlight of this online career exploration experience is the interactive career-based skills simulations, as well as related games and activities, which offer students virtual insight into what each career is like. Business professionals and post-secondary partners will also be available to respond directly to questions students submit.

Students and educators will use TheGameofCareers.com as a career or college readiness project, as an ongoing part of a class curriculum, or as a special “one-day” activity - similar to attending the live event. Students with logins may also access the site independently whenever they are in search of local career information.

The website will include links to the Bridges’ Career Depot, www.BridgesConnection.org/Jobs - the only jobs website in the region with job postings exclusively for ages 14-18. High school students can search for summer jobs that will earn them some money and teach them about real-world work responsibilities, and possibly their new career pathway.

TheGameofCareers.com will complement the live Bridges Career Exploration Day event when it returns. This website will become the new cornerstone for the Bridges program - incorporating speakers, career videos, the Career Depot and more - to provide a more cohesive career and college readiness package for high schools. Industry-specific promotions are being planned for the 2021-2022 school year.

Funding for this new Bridges project is being provided in part by Sourcewell, the Central Lakes Perkins Consortium, the Initiative Foundation and the Crow Wing Power Community Trust fund. The Bridges Career Academies & Workplace program also partners with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Central Lakes College, MSTATE, Rural MN Cep and area school districts.