TFIM Conference offers career insights from 16 different employers

For Jayda, a Brownsville Area High School student planning a college minor in film, visiting Steeltown Entertainment was eye-opening. She said she found there was a lot more to making a movie than meets than meets the eye and a lot more to using a video camera than she thought. “It’s not just turning it on and filming,” she said.

Her classmate Andrew, who wants to major in communications, said the entire process behind the scenes involves many more disciplines and much more collaboration than he imagined. “Learning all the ins-and-outs of the movie industry was really interesting,” he said, adding that the tight-knit relationships it creates makes is part of what makes communications in general attractive to him.

Like both of them, the 300+ young people attending the annual Student Leadership Conference for the Future Is Mine (TFIM), found visits to workplaces hosted by 16 different employers among the high points of the event. Along with Steeltown, the 16 hosts included: Allegheny General Hospital; ALCOSAN; Allegheny County; Carnegie Museum of Art; Dollar Bank; iHeartMedia; Google; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Heinz History Center; Jefferson Regional Medical Center; Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Schell Games; UPMC; Urban Design Associates; United Way of Southwestern PA; and Waterways Association of Pittsburgh with Gateway Clipper Fleet. 

This year’s Conference theme was “Putting the Pieces Together.” Aside from insights about specific careers, many students came away with impressions about industries or work in general that they said would help guide them after graduation.

For example, Blake, who visited the Carnegie Museum of Art said she knew from listening to professionals there that “it takes a lot of grit to be successful” in the field. Her teammate Jema said she was heartened to find that careers in the arts aren’t restricted to artists. “Almost anybody can find a career in the arts,” she said flush with the realization that arts organizations employ educators, accountants, lawyers and other professionals.

Workplace site visits always kick off the 2-day TFIM Conference. Following them, the April event continues the first day with a visit to a cultural venue and a college fair. This year, students went to the Heinz Regional History Center. On hand with displays and admissions reps ready to answer questions were Community College of Allegheny County; Indiana University of Pennsylvania; LaRoche College; Penn State Greater Allegheny; Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics; Pitt Greensburg; Pittsburgh Technical College and Robert Morris University.

Students later had dinner and a dance at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center where they spent the night. After breakfast the following morning, they attended more than a dozen career-related workshops. Typically, these breakout sessions are interactive and this year’s were no exception. One of the first sessions, for example, found students in an “escape room” where exit—and the hypothetical prize of a Google job—depended on performing a battery of tasks and solving a series of employment related puzzles.

Other workshops revolved around topics ranging from diversity and fidelity to values, to writing resumes, conducting business phone conversations, translating text messages into office-appropriate emails, organizing events and dressing for success.

Between workshops, students and their advisors also had the opportunity to go on a “gallery walk” featuring exhibits about projects that TFIM teams completed during the school year.

TFIM requires team projects because they help students build “soft skills” that are critical to future success—from organization and planning to communications and collaboration.

In Southmoreland High School’s display, kids reflected on what they’d learned from their TFIM experience. In an observation that was representative of others, one student said, “Being part of TFIM has made me learn to work with and help others. It has greatly helped me with management and organizational skills as well as simply making new friends.”

Neither TFIM nor the Conference would be possible without the generous support of corporate sponsors. Among them this year were: American Eagle Outfitters Foundation; Dollar Bank; Duquesne Light; Highmark; HM Insurance Group; Huntington National Bank; NextTier; Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation; Range Resources; Scottdale Bank and UPMC

Following are a few snapshots from the Conference. For more, visit our Facebook page at