Education Attainment Division
Changing the Job Search Process in Huntersville
This post was authored by Jill Swain, Executive Director, Huntersville (N.C.) Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
Huntersville, NC has been growing for nearly 30 years. Located north of Charlotte and at the crossroads of several active highways, Huntersville has positioned itself to be a hub for large business and corporate headquarters. Despite the success of bringing in a strong contingent of larger companies, Huntersville has seen downsizings and restructurings, and citizens sometimes look for employment elsewhere. We have underemployed experienced workers and executive level talent, but our corporate HR departments will spend thousands of dollars on job postings and relocation packages, even though the talent is right here.
With citizens coming to the Huntersville Chamber asking for networking assistance to find local job positions, it became clear that the traditional methods of job searches were not working for our local talent. As a chamber that works diligently to make direct and personal connections, we knew we had to change the job search scenario.
Working with Job Hubbub, our chamber established a local job search board, HuntersvilleWorks.com. We offer free job postings to our members and encourage residents to share the site with family and friends through social media. The site connects directly with Google Jobs, so anyone searching "jobs near me" locally is directed to our local Chamber member open positions.
A more personalized, local approach to job searches also allows our chamber to directly connect people to potential jobs. Although the site is easy to use and self-sustaining, we can monitor incoming jobs and applications and, when possible, make direct connections. The previous mentality of networking and trying to find someone in each company to get a foot in the door is now morphing toward a more direct effort to hire local and stay local in job searches.
We wanted to ensure that the system meets the needs of applicants and employers. Job-seekers receive an update if their application was read, so they didn’t have to wonder if their application went to some national headquarters “black hole”. We have also begun locating job kiosks at local establishments to increase business foot traffic and to make sure that people have access to search jobs throughout town. HR professionals can rate applicants and keep a file for any applications that come in for job positions. With the connection to Google Jobs, clicks to jobs listings on our site also improve SEO for member companies that post jobs on our board.
We are seeing a consistent increase in clicks and usage, currently at over 260,000 clicks a month and rising. We are about to launch a partnership with a local media organization to link our open jobs to their website and publications. Because HuntersvilleWorks has become a connector for our residents, we have developed the application to be utilized for other chambers of commerce. For example, Union County, N.C. is now utilizing the application as UnionCountyWorks.com and has launched with great acclaim.
We created the Job Hubbub platform to be the new way communities link job applicants to open, local positions. In a world of unlimited budgets, we would have launched an advertising campaign to encourage people to shorten their commutes and work where they live. Nevertheless, we are seeing a positive response to this new way of connecting, and offering this amenity has helped us attract new members. We would love to share the same application with any interested chamber. With potential for banner ads and paid chat features, it can quickly pay for itself!
Encouraging Entrepreneurship in High School
This post was authored by Danielle Britton, Talent and Education Director, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.
The Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge is an annual event in Binghamton, NY that brings together innovative minds of high school students and local businesses in a unique way. Founded by Modern Marketing & Commerce, GBSC gives high school students the opportunity to develop ideas and businesses that directly impact our community, all while competing for a chance to win scholarship money and internships.
The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and MMC partner to provide students with business connections and an inspiring final event. On Tuesday, May 21, MMC held its 10th annual Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge at Binghamton University in partnership with GBEOP. There were over 50 teams from 8 different local high schools who worked all year on the perfect business plan to showcase at the event.
Students worked with their teachers and business mentors to develop business ideas, create award-winning business plans and hone presentation skills. While given the choice to work individually or in teams, students were strongly encouraged to work together to learn communication and people skills. As part of the competition, the student or group was required to provide a professional tradeshow booth and business idea pitch. Local entrepreneurs and business leaders could then mentor or judge their business plans, which provided great connections and networking opportunities for the students.
To see a video from the 2019 Scholastic Challenge, click here.
Investing in Work-Based Learning and Our Future
This post was authored by Amanda Beights, Vice President of the Leadership Collier Foundation.
The mission of the Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF), of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, is to build a broad-based network of engaged community leaders. The foundation accomplishes this through its well-recognized leadership programs and talent development initiatives.
Cultivating Student Leaders & Developing Our Workforce
For more than 15 years, Youth Leadership Collier (YLC), the foundation’s program designed for students between their junior and senior years of high school, has empowered over 500 local graduates to become effective community leaders. The week-long program teaches leadership skills and personal development through hands-on experiences and eye-opening industry tours.
We also often hear from the local business community about their frustrations with talent development in our area which led our leadership to define workforce development needs to be a top policy priority for the Naples Chamber. Knowing the impact Youth Leadership Collier has made and the Chamber’s investment in connecting education and business, we realized the potential to develop similar work-based learning experiences for all local students.
Connecting Students to Professional Opportunities
Our focus is connecting students and businesses to internship opportunities, mentoring prospects, shadow days, industry fairs, networking events, work-site tours and in-school career programming. Over the past two years – through partnerships with our public and private high-schools, higher-education institutions and nonprofit organizations – we’ve paired thousands of students with successful work-based learning opportunities.
For example, one of the main draws of Youth Leadership Collier is the opportunity to get behind-the-scenes tours of local businesses. Expanding on that idea and the needs of our community, our team has set up site-tours with local manufacturing facilities to introduce up-and-coming talent to potential new career pathways.
We also host Mentor Mingle opportunities designed specifically for high school and college students to network with local business professionals. This gives students the opportunity to practice their soft-skills and develop relationships with community members out of their immediate circle.
The benefits for students, businesses and the community are extensive. Students enjoy applying what they learn in the classroom to the real-world and establish professional contacts for future employment. Employers gain access to a pool of skilled future employees and find opportunities to pursue new projects with student assistance. The community benefits because we have created an environment of collaboration, cooperation and respect for all involved. Work-based learning is a win for everyone.
Over the last year, our director of work-based learning has served as a resource to students and employers. Taking the time to nurture future talent from our educational institutions and informing employers on the value of hiring an intern.
More Resources to Come
Southwest Florida can expect a lot from the Greater Naples Chamber’s Leadership Collier Foundation in the future.
Our team is going beyond the traditional methods and encouraging students to think differently about careers in Collier County and pathways to prosperity. We are here to support all by serving as a leader and partner in the connection to business, education and talent development in Collier County. Our goal is to create economic opportunity for all and motivate our future leaders to better our community and their lives for years to come.
Developing Talent in Sarasota
As a pillar of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Sarasota Tomorrow Economic Development Initiative, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is using a collective impact strategy to secure 30,000 new degrees by 2020. The Partnership is creating a comprehensive career pathways system, at both the high school and post-secondary level, which enhances area students’ opportunities for career exploration, skills development and placement in high-demand, high-wage careers. As a new Partnership, Talent4Tomorrow is focused on building operational support, research, data, communication efforts and incorporating assessments.
Interview Participant: Steve Queior, CCE, President & CEO, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce
Q: How did your community begin to focus on Education Attainment and Workforce Development?
Throughout the recession, our region experienced several rounds of painful job cuts, yet we saw employers struggling to fill open jobs due to a lack of talent. We started to feel the pain of this skills gap in our community and began to look at what chambers in other communities around the country were doing to address their workforce issues. Over a period of two years, our Chamber connected with national groups like the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and learned how communities were rallying together through strategic coalitions. We knew we needed to do the same in the Greater Sarasota Area.
Q: What were the most important factors that helped spur the chamber’s efforts to strategically address local workforce issues?
The most important factors involved having the right people at the table. In addition to private sector employers, our Chamber’s board consists of the school superintendent, leaders from both city and county government, and four college presidents. During our board meetings and retreats, we have the necessary stakeholders listening to employers saying ‘hey, I read about the high unemployment rate; yet I can’t get a precision machinist at my specialty manufacturing facility;’ or ‘I can’t find skilled healthcare workers or construction workers.’ We were able to aggregate these conversations to find that it came down to four industry classifications that were the most in-need of workers. From there, we focused on a dual strategy to re-train unemployed individuals while also developing a long-term career awareness and career pathways strategy for our young people. The next factor was key community organizations- such as the community foundation and Career Edge, a group specializing in adult training and retraining- stepping up to provide funding and operational support.
Q: What are other efforts related to education and workforce development that your chamber leads?
There are four chamber-led boots-on-the-ground efforts:
Internship Database: A portal on the chamber’s website provides a space for employers to post searchable available internship opportunities for students; then we facilitate matches between the two. With support from ACCE’s Lumina Award for Education Attainment, we plan to reengineer this portal to include resources such as a “how to” workshop for employers who have not traditionally utilized interns; and a database with information on internship providers and success rates (i.e. how many of the students who get an internship go onto the next step in their schooling, what impact these internships have on graduation rates and what students go on to do in their careers).
Career Exploration: After eight months of research leading up to the launch of Talent4Tomorrow, we realized a major weakness in our community was that students lacked awareness about potential careers and how to prepare for those careers. Our partners are working on piloting a 6-week “Summer Bridge” program with Road Trip Nation, a group that creates innovative career exploration experiences and resources. Through the program, students receive scholarships covering tuition, books, etc. and complete up to six college credits by taking two courses- including “Student Life Skills,” which is a project-based curriculum developed by Road Trip Nation.
The Chamber is launching a Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) for the Central West Coast of Florida in Fall 2015. During the twenty-one week program, middle and high school students will go on company tours, build a business plan, and launch a legally operating business. Business professionals will serve as mentors and speakers. The program has had great success in other cities, and statistics show that students that go through the YEA program progress in school, earn degrees and pursue productive careers.
Addressing the Skills Gaps: After a labor survey conducted last year revealed a critical skills gap, a coalition of community stakeholders created a curriculum called Precision Machining. The Sarasota County Technical Institute provided the space; local counties donated a third of a million dollars for equipment; and local companies lined up to hire individuals who finished the course. Our manufacturing action team is currently working to bring the Manufacturing Skills Standards Certification into area high schools and has developed a community-wide career awareness campaign for high-demand careers in this industry.
Q: Best practices or lessons-learned to share with other chambers working on education reform?
The Chamber conducted an asset map to assess education needs in our community and get a sense of which organization was doing what. We found that efforts related to early childhood education, as well as those addressing adult workforce training and re-training, were strong. But efforts to ensure middle and high school students were on a path to college needed to be strengthened. Right now the average age that a young person returns to college after entering the workforce directly after high school is 28. This information gave our chamber a focus moving forward.
**More lessons and insights from the 2014-15 ACCE Lumina Award Winners will be available in the upcoming Fall edition of ACCE's Chamber Executive Magazine.