Fostering Relationships with Business and Industry Leaders

Developing relationships with business and industry leaders is beneficial for not only the leaders themselves but the students as well. For business and industry leaders, they are looking toward the future and examining trends of the upcoming workforce in which they will be employing. They want to ensure that this next generation of the workforce is highly skilled and well-trained for a sustainable future. With the baby boomer generation retiring by the thousands every day, many business and industry leaders are aware that they need to nurture the upcoming members of the workforce. However, for students, including business and industry leaders brings a different type of benefit.

Students benefit from incorporating workforce leaders by being exposed to topics they are interested in and gaining a new purpose for their education. In turn, students perform better and stay in school longer when engaged in the curriculum they are intrigued by and can obtain new experiences and skillsets.

How to Foster Relationships with Business and Industry Leaders
Start Small

When thinking about incorporating business and industry leaders into the classroom, you may be thinking big picture. However, it is best to build these relationships over time to ensure that the leader is an appropriate fit for your students and that you are providing the best opportunities available.

Start by reaching out to leaders who are already involved in school activities as they already have experience working with the school. If there are no current leaders involved, ask around your community for leaders who frequently give their time to community events.

Create opportunities in your classroom that are low time and low money commitments for the workforce leaders to slowly integrate them into the classroom without asking too much. For example, asking a business leader to speak to a marketing class on current trends or an accountant to speak to a finance class on the road to a successful career as an accountant.

For example, the Pinellas Education Foundation found that “By giving employers a quick glimpse into a district, school, academy or program, they may be more apt to come up with creative ways to increase their involvement. Critically important, employers universally agreed that the first ask should never be about financial resources, but about building relationships.”

This provides opportunities for the leaders and students to connect with one another and spark interest in having the business or industry leader continue to contribute their time to the students without the weight of a large commitment. Over time, the leader and students may want to further the partnership with larger opportunities with more commitment.

Highlight Student Achievements and the Impact the Leaders Can Make

Business and industry leaders want more than to donate money or be in a photo op. They want to know that their time commitment is making a real impact on the students’ educational process and providing real opportunities for student success.

Demonstrate the students’ eagerness to connect with business and industry leaders by showcasing how the class is preparing them for the workforce. This can either be through students who have completed industry certifications, completed projects relevant to business and industry leaders and completed volunteer opportunities. Furthermore, business and industry leaders are interested in learning how their commitment to the student will benefit their educational process. Whether that is through a mentorship program, job shadowing or some other metric, be sure that the leaders are aware of the positive impact their presence will have on the students they are serving.

Create an Advisory Board

By creating an advisory board, you are creating an opportunity for the entire education community, which includes students, educators, administrators, parents and community members, to have their opinions heard and impacts seen.

This gives business and industry leaders to have an opportunity to provide feedback on current programs and generate ideas on how to better narrow the gap between the school and its community members, providing a better educational environment for students.

Provide Larger Opportunities for Involvement

Once the relationship with business and industry professionals has been created and the leader has shown interest in getting more involved, you can create larger opportunities for them to connect with students.

For example, you can create an internship or mentorship program for the leader to volunteer in or even join the school’s advisory board if one is created. Additionally, encourage the leader to share creative ideas and programs that they would be interested in spearheading if there isn’t a current initiative that fits their interests.

By providing multiple types of involvement, community members and leaders can get involved in what best suits their current time commitments and interests. Additionally, with multiple opportunities for community involvement, the students can also choose which programs best suit their interests and needs when it comes to skill development, hands-on experiences, and career exploration.

In conclusion, fostering relationships with business and industry leaders can be a long, slow process but by fostering relationships with the leaders and students’ needs in mind, it can create ample growth for your CTE programs and increase student success.

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