CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — You’re never too young to network.
That’s what some Hamilton County middle and high school students are doing with local companies, as they “Get Future Ready.”
It’s one way they’re driving our economy forward.
“The Chamber’s involvement with ‘Get Future Ready’ is really focused on what we’re hearing from our employers right now,” said Christina Henderson, Director of Development, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. “What we’re hearing is that there is a talent and workforce shortage.”
Henderson says they’re encouraging employers to get involved with schools early to prepare students for when they enter the workforce.
“Events like this give kids an opportunity to see all the different careers that are out there that they would have never thought about if they were just in the classroom,” she said.
“This event is very important to us, because we’re trying to help stimulate our workforce,” said Ketha Richardson, EPB’s Director of Inclusion and Diversity. “In some cases you won’t be able to find people in the industry, so why not help create some? And by going to these schools, we’re given exposure to the different opportunities that are out there for these young people. A lot of people don’t even know, and we had quite a few of these kids that come through and don’t know what EPB is. They don’t know that we supply power to them. They don’t know that we supply Internet. So this is a great opportunity for them to find out what we do from that aspect. And we can let them know what kind of jobs are available for them as well.”
Henderson says the curriculum in the school’s Career Technical Education is aligned with industry standards.
“In fact, most of our high schools offer industry certificates on top of school credit,” she said. “So kids are receiving industry certificates that will prepare them to enter the workforce directly after high school if that’s something they’re interested in doing.”
“We are dealing with mostly middle schoolers and high schoolers at this point,” said Michael Paul, VP of Talent Management at U.S. Xpress. “Obviously we don’t hire them right out of middle school, but we want people to be thinking about it long term in terms of their career. It kind of helps our long-term talent strategies. So when they do get to a graduation age, whether it be out of high school or in college, we want U.S Xpress and transportation to be at top of mind.”
“For businesses, I think what is most helpful for them is that they are choosing to play the long game,” Henderson said. “And so they are investing in our students right now when they’re 8th graders almost 9th graders. In the past I think we were able to rely on things like vocational education, and just hope that kids would be ready for the workforce once they were finished with school. We’re choosing now to be more proactive, and really partnering our schools and our employers together, so that the end product is what employers need. So that our economy can continue to thrive.”