Flagstaff Chamber ‘Skills’ Delivering Business Connections

Flagstaff, AZ | Submitted by Julie Pastrick

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Exciting partnerships between local businesses and classrooms are providing students with a chance to learn about career options in Flagstaff – and giving Chamber members a chance to influence the future workforce.

Skills for Workplace Success was formed in a collaborative effort between the Chamber’s member businesses and local schools to raise awareness of the many careers that are available in Flagstaff. The program aims to inform which careers require a degree or certification,  since a high school diploma is just not enough these days. The program’s commitment has always been to dispel the myth that circulates among students that there are no good jobs in rural Arizona. Through Skills for Workplace Success, students are prepared to fill these jobs and to demonstrate that there are gratifying and well-paying careers right in their home town.

The value that this program delivers to businesses is to fill their job vacancies. More and more communities across rural Arizona expose students to career exploration earlier and there’s been an increased focus on career and technical education (CTE) curriculum in the high schools. This is a solid focus that resonates across the state.

Skills for Workplace Success has paired up 20 businesses with classrooms to examine careers in fields such as health, fashion, hotels and restaurants, publishing, transportation, sciences and technology, finance, construction and government service.

The business has the choice of working in the classroom as many times as they can coordinate with the teacher and the students are privy to meetings with senior management, department heads, and human resources to get a feel for the diversity and number of jobs available at that business.

For many students, this is the first time they are inside a business that offers a career pathway that they could eventually choose. Exposure to top and mid-level managers motivates these students. Not only do they discuss the achievement it takes to be employable in their companies, they also discuss soft skills – personal qualities that are important to an employer such as integrity, trustworthiness, respect, reliability, problem solving, critical thinking and more. This approach is significant for opening a new horizon for a local student who might not otherwise have exposure to the business world.

The program has won an Economic Development Award for Career Exploration from the Arizona Commission on Post-Secondary Education. Youth have been employed as summer interns and then hired on during the school year. Exposure to soft skills, résumé building and the interview process gives students a competitive edge and prepares them to be more qualified job candidates. A side benefit of Skills for Workplace Success is that many of the participating businesses are STEM-based prompting students to consider a career in STEM. 

One successful and long-standing partnership has been between Mr. Curt Craig’s classroom at Mount Elden Middle School and North Country Healthcare. In the spring, North Country Healthcare arranged for medical school students from A.T. Still University to visit Mr. Craig’s 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at Mount Elden Middle School. The lesson focused on energy in the body and included discussion and demonstrations on how the lungs and heart operate as well as how the body stores energy. Students were able to test their reflexes and listen to their own heart rates. They also learned about the impact of carbon monoxide and oxygen on the body including how oxygen binds to iron. This example of STEM-focused interactions between classrooms and member businesses inspires students to cultivate curiosity and directs them toward careers in STEM.

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