The future of our workforce should be very important to you. It is critical to your employer and should be considered very strategic to individual businesses and your industry. I want you to look at the incredible investment you can make for you, your staff, your business, your industry and especially the young people in your community. This is a call to action.
While attending the U.S. News STEM Solution conference, it was a constant theme that we need to encourage kids to explore their interest, even as early as elementary school to enable them to make the critical education decisions they need to make by high school and beyond. Many of the specifics were around the encouragement of STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) but by no means were the needs exclusive to those disciplines.
So I ask you to engage in your community’s youth beyond the resume reviews or mock-interviews. I have some ideas that could help:
Internships – Internships can be paid (I hope), or attached to the school where the student gets course credit, or both. The key is to make these real learning experiences, with hands-on practice applicable to the business. These are not very valuable if they are stuffing envelopes and making copies all day. That would be a clerk job, not an internship.
Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day – Officially these are April in the US, October in Canada – but they can be ANY day. Make these events meaningful exploration for the kids. They are not about the little ones having movie day in the conference room. These days should be real exploration for the kids. Create panels that explain your world of work, the jobs in your office, the skills your employees use and why do your customers care that you exist.
Scholarships – Can your business or your industry create scholarships to college or trade schools to help students in need, pursue the training and education they need to be part of your future workforce? Looking for a way to make a mark with your local industry association chapter – spearhead this committee! With student loan debt surpassing credit card debit in this nation, this is a service to EVERYONE.
Volunteer Opportunities – Many organizations targeting career and skill development in our youth need volunteers. Some opportunities need a steady commitment, such as an adult leader coaching a team for FIRST Robotics where kids compete in the development of robots that must achieve specific tasks. This isn’t only an engineering need, these kids create marketing plans and presentations to present their solution. Other groups like Boys and Girls Club need volunteers in the afternoon to help with homework. Several organizations need one-time judges at their competitions. These competition include a wide variety of trades. People are need to judge or assist with events ranging through culinary arts, to welding arts, to business plans. There literally is something for everyone.
Career Open House – Can you open your company for career tours for groups as small as a Boy Scout Troup or as large as a national gathering of Junior Achievement leaders? Create a tour that showcases your employees, your work environment, the skills used in your business, the impact your business has on the community or the world.
School Career Days – Volunteer at schools near your office or anywhere in the town, especially the underserved schools whose parents may find it more difficult to take time off work for career sharing. Help your employees create their age- appropriate presentations. Can they bring an exercise that showcases their job? Can they bring a poster board with the logos of your customers, if the kids will recognize the logos? Every age group has different needs, be mindful of these differences. If your employees come to you with a need for time to represent your business at career day – celebrate it. Don’t make them take PTO – incorporate it into your corporate outreach programs.
Sales Training – Can your sales team develop training for the high school students that need to sell advertising space for their newspaper, yearbook, theatre program? Can they take the student on a sales call with them – or help them do phone calls to their target? Why not provide sales training to the students? Remember that the teacher is often learning the most, while they teach.
What are you doing to develop your employer brand while you open the young minds of your community to the possibilities they can pursue as they plan their education? This critical, strategic, giving and can be joyful. Consider me a resource to discuss any of these options. I challenge you…
About the Author: Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.