by Sheri Heiney, President & CEO of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce
Businesses have a vested interest in their communities. They need a strong pool of local workers to choose from and consumers who can afford their products.
Many businesses want to give to the community and invest in it, but sometimes they aren’t sure where to start. Schools can also benefit from these partnerships, providing students with opportunities for success in the workforce.
Businesses can help provide a more rigorous and skills-based curriculum, highlighting employable skills like teamwork, communication and presentation skill, among others.
And they provide students with the third R, relationships. Relationships not only are important in the job market, but also in their personal lives — students gain access to role models they many not otherwise have.
So with clear benefits to students, how do you get started? Here are some ideas:
Build a local advisory board. This group can be charged to invite local business people into the classroom. Students can be the intermediaries between school and the business partner; they can talk about what is happening in the classroom.
Start small. Provide opportunities that aren’t too time intensive or expensive for businesses. For local, small business owners in a tough economy, there may be a perception that these programs will go beyond their means.
Highlight benefits! Highlight for business the benefits they gain by hiring a 16- or 17-year-old student. Students are learning relevant, 21st century skills and global knowledge. They have a lot of energy, excitement, plus a desire to succeed. And these students return from college as highly skilled laborers. Stress to businesses that the skills and relevance they provide will benefit them as well as the students.
Understand teachers are learners, too. Businesses can provide opportunities for teachers. For instance, a two week externship for a finance teacher could allow them to practice their classroom knowledge and return to it with real-world examples. Teachers sitting in on advisory board meetings often leads to new ideas.
Be flexible. Create flexible, simple programs.
Make it international. Look for companies in your community that depend on exporting, importing or international banking. Make contact with your local Rotary, World Trade Council, or Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, visit www.prescott.org, call 928.445.2000 or 1.800.266.7534, or stop by the Visitor Information Center at 117 W. Goodwin St.