Sponsored: Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce grows future workforce with new initiative
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Molding young minds is often called the key to developing the future workforce. The Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce launched their first annual Grow Local campaign to accomplish that purpose. The week-long initiative, which took place March 18-22 in conjunction with North Carolina’s Students@Work Month, introduced middle and high school students to local businesses through first-hand experiences and activities that took a look at a day in the life of the employees. More than 2,700 students and 100 local businesses participated in the inaugural event.
We chatted with Kate Teel, president and CEO of the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce about Grow Local. The answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
How does the Grow Local campaign work?
Businesses sign up to participate in Grow Local as a host to bring students into their place of business for one day during the week. The business sign-ups are ongoing and vital to the success of this program. For two weeks in December, teachers can sign up their class to participate in Grow Local as a group. … Once the classes have signed up, the Chamber staff and Grow Local committee come together to match classes with businesses.
[We do] our best to pair local businesses with a class in a similar field so interests match for maximum outcomes. Once everyone is matched, the businesses create an agenda to include tours, introductions that include the job of the person, the education they have, growth in the company, continued education and sometimes a salary range for the position, and also a required hands-on experience. Without the hands-on component, this program isn’t as impactful, as they do not have the opportunity to truly experience life in that career. The Chamber staff works to map out travel, transportation and logistics and assigns each class and business with a day and time they will be together, and then, the magic “just happens.”
Students load the buses and travel to their host business for their time scheduled with the business, participate in their experience and time there, and reload the bus to head back to school. Businesses and students both participate in a survey so feedback can be shared and used for improvements.
What businesses participated?
We had approximately 100 businesses participate, ranging from large businesses such as Pitt Community College, East Carolina University, Vidant Health, Hyster-Yale Materials Handling Inc., Greenville Utilities Commission, DSM Dyneema and the City of Greenville down to small businesses like Fresh Vibes, State Farm Insurance agent Chris Godley’s office, J. Morgan Design Associates and Taylor Made Publishing. We truly saw a diverse mix of businesses from horticulture to library and everything in between and couldn’t have done this program without them all.
What kind of impact does the program have on the students that participate?
Students have a unique opportunity to experience a day in the life with Grow Local. Many times, they are already touring local businesses, but they don’t have the opportunity to connect with employees or have a true sense of what happens in a job until they experience it for themselves.
In addition, they may know when they drive past a building that the sign out front says “Chick-Fil-A,” but do they know the ins and outs of the business behind the building? Not usually. Having the students participate not only raises their awareness of local businesses, but it also encourages them and inspires them to explore careers in the field and to think about Pitt County as their future place to live, work and grow.
What are the future plans for the campaign?
The Chamber has committed to three years of this work, so we will begin sign-ups again in the fall of 2019 for year two. We have already heard of a student getting hired because of this program. We can only imagine where it will go from here.
While we have committed to three years, it is our hope that Grow Local continues to be a part of our work year after year and the students that are now participating in the program are filling the shoes of the ones they are shadowing a few years down the road. Workforce is the No. 1 question when a company looks to relocate, and in Pitt County, our community and the Chamber is dedicated to making sure we have the pipeline for now and the future.