LAUNCHing careers in South Central Kentucky
SCK LAUNCH is an initiative of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce that encourages students to explore local career opportunities, while learning valuable soft-skills at the same time.
“We have about 6,000 open positions in South Central Kentucky right now,” explained Kim Phelps, vice president of communications and public policy at the Bowling Green Chamber. “This is a wonderful place to live and work, but as the community grows, we want our kids to stay, and we want our alumni to come back to work here also.”
The initiative was conceived as an extension of two successful programs in the community: The Leader in Me, which teaches elementary school students about leadership and soft skills; and LEAD, which further develops those skills for middle school students. SCK LAUNCH, in contrast, builds on those programs by exposing teens to local industries to get them thinking about potential careers.
“Our students are learning leadership skills from the time they’re in kindergarten all the way through graduation,” said Phelps. “When they get to high school, it becomes more about laying the hard skills on top of the soft skills, and when students graduate, they will have an industry credential of some kind,” she added.
SCK LAUNCH offers career shadowing to high school students to raise awareness about the variety of careers available in the region. Through the program, teens get the opportunity to tour plants and facilities, meet with employees and observe how they work in their natural environments..
Through “educator externships,” teachers visit companies to learn about the types of jobs offered and the education and skills required. Afterward, they can adjust their curricula and lesson plans to more effectively steer students into local career opportunities.
“A lot of teachers go from high school to college and then straight back to the classroom, so they actually don’t have a clear picture of what they are preparing their students for,” explained Phelps. “These experiences give them context, so they can help students understand why the work they’re doing is valuable.”
Phelps cites the newly-cemented relationship between business and education as the greatest achievement of SCK LAUNCH, and says she hopes collaboration will continue—even after the chamber eventually dials back its own involvement in the initiative.
“One of the things that has been so unique and rewarding for us is having the business and education communities sit down at the same table, look each other in the eye and actually talk to one another,” she said. “At the end of the day, the integration of the career mindset in our schools is really the goal.”
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Afterschool STEM for tomorrow's workforce
Chambers of commerce are partnering with the Mott Foundation’s 50 State Afterschool Network to advance high-quality programming for elementary school-aged students across the U.S.
Here are examples of two chambers — one in South Carolina, and one in Washington state — that are teaming up with their statewide networks to help kids get a jump-start on science, math and technology.
In 2010, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce joined forced with the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance to promote STEM learning for students in the state’s public school system.
Initially, the focus was ensuring members' employees could remain productive between 2–5:00 p.m. on weekdays, said Cynthia Bennett, vice president of education at the South Carolina Chamber. Later, as the project evolved, its mission shifted to guaranteeing that networks were providing high-quality, STEM-focused learning opportunities for the entire community.
“We chose to work with the network because there was a common ground for mutual benefits and shared priorities,” said Bennet. “We are the voice of business in South Carolina and our main goal and concern was—and still is—making sure we have an educated workforce that will be able to take over, as opposed to having to be retrained.”
Through their collaboration, the chamber helped the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance increase its visibility and credibility among the state's business leaders, as well as secure funding for additional science and technology exposure.
“As a mom of two boys, I understand being a working mother and having to decide what to do with my kids,” she said. “For me, as well as for the chamber, it wasn’t just about having a program—it was about providing something valuable. Were they offering something meaningful, or were they just babysitting?”
In Washington, Greater Spokane Incorporated and School’s out Washington have worked to promote statewide afterschool learning, with a focus on STEM skills and careers.
“School’s Out Washington is providing quality improvement and professional development support, and GSI is providing connections to business and STEM learning essentials that afterschool providers can use,” said Alisha Benson, vice president of education and workforce at GSI. “One of our greatest strengths as a chamber is our ability to convene many of the entities across the table on education and pipeline issues within the business community.”
GSI has implemented an initiative with SOW called Business AfterSchool, which is a series of industry skills workshops aimed at providing on-site awareness of Spokane’s high-demand jobs to students in the region.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for students to go into a business and take an in-depth look at those careers and how their skills work,” said Meg Lindsay, GSI’s executive director of education and workforce. “I think the really important piece of all this is that, as we enter a business setting, we’re really engaging business professionals in a way that kids just can't get during regular school hours.”
Rome Chamber gets geeky
Geek Week 2014, taking place October 6-11, is a community celebration of technology and innovation in Rome, Georgia. What started three years ago as a celebration of the IT Department at the Floyd Medical Center in Rome, GA has blossomed into a week-long, community-wide event reveling in all things geeky.
The Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce's Technology SquareTable hosts an exciting lineup of events including: a trivia game on kick-off night, egg drop competition, cookout and 'cardboard challenge'. In hopes that this event positively impacts the entire community, the Chamber promotes open participation in these events as well as encouraging individuals, schools, companies and non-profits to host their own events and activities around the themes of technology, innovation, and creativity.
Geek Week is a vehicle to highlight and appreciate the impact of technology on our lives both at home and at work. The Chamber also hopes to encourage the next generation to explore STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields of study and careers by showcasing the technology and innovation that is happening in Rome.
To find out more about Geek Week Rome, click the links below:
Geek Week Rome on Facebook
Rome News Tribune's Article, Geek Week 2014 celebrates creativity in Rome
Follow the action on Twitter
Spokane Gets REAL
Improving educational attainment in your region is not a task on a “to-do” list that you can check off some day. It requires vision, persistence and committed leadership, all of which Greater Spokane Incorporated is supplying for their region.
I was in Spokane last month and sat down with Shelley O’Quinn, Director of Workforce and Education for GSI. Shelley, who’s currently running for county commission, leads their REAL initiative – Regional Education Attainment Legacy. This includes projects, partnerships and policy work address issues from Pre-K though Higher Education. A few highlights:
- K-12 Roundtable – meeting every other month with public and private superintendents from 14 school systems across the region. Business leaders are at each meeting; the agenda focuses on everything from capital projects to policy reform to education quality. They’ve organized these meetings for 8 years.
- Career Awareness – Because top business and K-12 leaders have met regularly for so long, they’ve been able to launch programs that would be hard to pull off in one district alone: Aerospace Skills Week, Washington Business Week, and the Professional Development Academy for Science Instructors. Two school districts also house internship coordinators in the GSI offices.
- STEM – GSI is the funding agent and hosts staff for the Spokane STEM Network. A new bioscience focused STEM academy just opened this fall in downtown Spokane. Check out this great video.
- Higher Education Leadership Group – this 12 year old, economic growth-focused group includes the presidents from all 5 of the region’s higher education institutions and key corporate leaders. Their most recent achievement… landing a new state medical school in Spokane.
Better education outcomes through business-educator cooperation, all supported by the regional chamber of commerce. That’s what REAL in greater Spokane.