Over the past year, newspaper headlines and social media feeds have been flooded with reports of the challenges business owners across the nation are facing to adequately staff their workplaces. A CNBC report from August found that more than half of all small business owners struggle to find qualified workers to fill openings. As a result, businesses are overwhelmed with limited staff and increased demand, and the additional pressures of time and workload are placed on current employees. Some companies have even been forced to reduce hours or set limits on offerings because of these staffing constraints.
A large percentage of these workforce gaps include entry-level positions or roles that do not require significant prior training or credentials. And these open roles are spread across a wide diversity of industries, including public and private sector opportunities and covering a full range of work structures. Local high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and other work-based learning courses are an untapped resource in many local communities to meet these needs potentially.
A Win-Win For Schools And Businesses
With the current backdrop, there is a unique opportunity for local high schools to partner with businesses to benefit both the local economy and provide students with hands-on, real-world learning opportunities. High school CTE and career-focused programs can offer a pool of energetic and talented students who are excited to apply their learning and skills. With a structured school-business partnership, students can be available during typical daytime business hours. These students bring creativity and critical thinking. They have an eager willingness to learn new skills and contribute. And, with little prior work experience, they are open to coaching and training to best meet the needs of the specific business.
For schools, real-world career applications allow students to learn more about fields that interest them to determine if they might be a fit for future endeavors. They can also develop skills that transcend specific industries, including customer service, communication, marketing, and organization. And these opportunities allow students to build connections within the community and establish relationships with professionals that can extend beyond high school.
Aligning Student Interests And Skills With Local Business Openings
Work-based learning experiences can be beneficial for students in a variety of ways. If students want to explore a specific interest or gain experience within a certain field, they can try it out in related fields. Students interested in education might intern or be an assistant at a local childcare center or preschool. Students who wish to explore professions in animal care might assist in a pet grooming or boarding business. A student interested in pursuing a future in the culinary arts could gain valuable experience at any restaurant as a host, server, or helping the kitchen. Students interested in health care might provide assistance at an elderly care facility or hospital.
Beyond specific student interests, students can gain valuable experience applying skills and lessons they are learning in school. Students who have earned certifications in Excel or PowerPoint might provide data entry or marketing creation support. Students who have participated in mechanics training might apprentice at a local shop. And nearly all students can benefit from developing customer service and communications skills, regardless of future career plans. It is important to note that the jobs that students fill do not have to be an exact match to their future goals to provide valuable and relevant skill-building.
Building Connections With Local Businesses
Partnering with high schools to fill employment needs might be a very new concept for local businesses. In looking for opportunities for students, be creative and encourage open and ongoing communication between the school and business. This helps to ensure that the relationship is beneficial for all involved. To get started, you might:
- Survey local businesses to determine the types of openings they currently have. Consider how those roles might be filled with high school partnerships, and communicate some possible options to the businesses. Host a job fair or weekly school lunch sessions to showcase employment opportunities.
- Reach out to local chambers of commerce and invite the member businesses to advertise open positions to students. SchooLinks offers the capability for local businesses to post openings for students directly on the platform and include job skill requirements and needs.
- Guide students to search for local openings and give them support in reaching out and connecting with local businesses. Provide guidance on how they can make the case to a business for opening up the role to a high school student. Help them to build resumes and practice interview questions as they go through the application and hiring process.
In the immediate term, these partnerships help businesses fill openings and relieve staffing constraints while students can apply what they are learning in the classroom and develop new skills in real-world settings. But the impact of these partnerships can be much more far-reaching. Through these partnerships, CTE programs can adapt and align to the evolving needs of the local economy. Schools and businesses are able to deeply collaborate on workforce development efforts, ensuring that students are receiving the skills that will land them future jobs. And students can use the lessons learned to thoughtfully navigate their post-secondary choices with firsthand knowledge and experience.
Creating partnerships between districts and local businesses allows students the opportunity to gain knowledge on leading careers for the future. Check out how SchooLinks can help foster these connections.