Junior Achievement connects students with career opportunities.

An event designed to enhance students' business acumen, soft skills and workforce readiness recently brought together more than 300 Greenville high school students and 40 business representatives at the Greenville Convention Center.

The Junior Achievement Executive Challenge was designed by Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina. Junior Achievement groups work to provide young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices, according to the organization's website. Working closely with the business community, Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina fosters workforce readiness and soft skills among local students.

The Executive Challenge provided high school students with presentation and networking experience with business professionals from a variety of local industries. The students were given opportunities to pitch themselves to companies and find out what companies were looking for in their future workforce. Participating companies included Wells Fargo, Corley Plumbing Air Electric, Fluor Corp., Renewable Water Resources and ECPI.

"This is the first time for Junior Executive Challenge. And as far as we know, this is an original event," said Connie Lanzl, president of Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina. "The issue in the Upstate is all about workforce development. It's fine for us to give kids that knowledge but how do they practice it? This is an opportunity for businesses to interact directly with kids. To be able to tell them what they look for when hiring and to dispel some misperceptions."

Various trades were represented at the event, including engineering, manufacturing and banking. Chris Corley, founder of Corley Plumbing Air Electric, said his participation in the event was twofold to address a stigma of the trades and to explain the successful careers available in trade fields.

"A trade occupation has been seen as a last-ditch job. If you can't do anything else you can always be a plumber," he said. "This isn't the case.

"We talk about plumbing, electrical and HVAC as trades you can learn, get training with little to no debt, and have a career that would pay above the average from the standpoint of other career fields you would have whether you go to college or not," he said. "It is a career that no matter where you are, you can use whether in Greenville or Seattle Wash., people need us."

Corley said that for every...

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