New initiatives and fields will be a big part of the third annual Worlds of Work expo.

Starting Thursday and continuing Friday, nearly 4,000 eighth-graders and hundreds of high school students will travel to Shelton State Community College’s Martin campus, where they will learn about different careers through people who work in them. At least 52 schools from across West Alabama will take part in the expo, which is hosted by West Alabama Works.

Donny Jones, chief operating officer for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, said the event will be significant, with tents covering 100,000 square feet and $25 million worth of equipment on display. There will be more than 200 industries represented with more than 1,000 volunteers assisting parents and children.

“It will be an absolute, amazing spectacle to see,” Jones said. “If anybody has ever said, ‘I wish I could get my children more involved or engaged in their school,’ this is the event to bring their kids to because it will change the way they look at classes and careers.”

Each year, nearly 100 different careers are put on display during the expo, ranging from medicine, automotive, manufacturing, energy, construction, transportation and agriculture to many others.

Jones said one major addition to the expo this year was a focus on education, bringing in classroom simulations and teachers to explain their careers.

“Of course, education is a huge component, but we have never had a 'world' here talking about being a teacher,” Jones said.

In addition, there will also be more careers involved in technology , manufacturing and the military.

The first year the expo was held in 2015, about 800 high school students took part. That number grew to more than 2,000 last year and is expected to be even higher this year.

For Jones, the importance of Worlds of Work in the community cannot be said enough.

“It really has opened the eyes of a lot of parents to the different pathways of careers,” Jones said. “We hear daily from parents and adults who say, ‘We had no idea what was going on in this as well.’”

The Thursday session will last from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with 2-7 p.m. reserved for high school students. The Friday session will last from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Reach Drew Taylor at drew.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.