Bridges to launch virtual career exploration experience

New tools help locate local careers for high school students


Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection will launch a new, localized career exploration website for area high school students. will be a dedicated website showcasing local industries and careers through interactive online simulations and activities, videos, photos and relevant local career information, all in a free, secure setting.

On select scheduled days, students will also have the opportunity to participate in group chats or video conference calls with local professionals and post-secondary partners to ask questions about careers and their work environments.

For the last 13 years, Bridges has hosted a one-of-a-kind Career Exploration Day, offering more than 2,500 students from 28 local school districts a unique way to meet business professionals and explore careers. Because of the crowd restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current distance learning model of most districts in the region, this live, one-day event will not happen in 2021.

But students still need to explore the hundreds of careers available to them and better understand local career options.


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

Content will be displayed in an engaging game-like format where students will earn points for every exploration activity they experience. Points can be used to enter into prize drawings.

This career exploration experience will operate similar to a virtual conference, but be 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 - all of which will be matched up with real local businesses that offer those positions.

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 “clickable” photos of regional business interiors.

The highlight of this online career exploration experience will be the interactive career-based skills simulations, as well as related games and activities that offer students virtual insight into what each career is like. Business professionals and post-secondary partners will also be available at select times to offer group online chats or video conference discussions with students.

Students and educators will be able to use for a specific career or college readiness project, as an on-going part of their curriculum, or as a special “one-day” activity - similar to attending the live event.

Students with log ins may also access the site independently whenever they are in search of local career information. It is estimated area 5-7,500 high schoolers will be given access to this unique site.

The website will also include links to the Bridges’ Career Depot, - the only jobs website in the region with postings exclusively for 14-18 year olds. High schoolers can search for summer jobs that will earn them some money and teach them about real-world work responsibilities, and maybe, their new career pathway.

ADVERTISEMENT will complement the live Bridges Career Exploration Day event when it returns. With this new accessible exploration format, career exploration activities could also be expanded to additional audiences, such as area college students or middle schoolers, and even has the potential for replication in additional Minnesota markets.

The Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection’s programs have been consistently recognized as a high quality, effective way to introduce students to careers available in the region.

Initial funding of this new Bridges project is being provided by Sourcewell, the Central Lakes Perkins Consortium, the Initiative Foundation, and the Crow Wing Power Community Trust Fund. Additional funders are still being sought. The Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection program is supported by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Central Lakes College, MSTATE and area high schools.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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