Q & A: business-education partnerships.

Author:Thomas, Marian
Position:Workforce - Detroit Regional Chamber

I'm a business owner interested in a partnership with a school. Where do I start?

A small or medium-size business can partner with another business or alone with a school where the leadership is receptive. The Detroit Regional Chamber will coordinate a partnership, but once it's in place, the growth of the relationship is up to the business and school. You must realize that a partnership is an investment of time and resources, rather than a quick fix to your employment needs, especially if your partnership is with an elementary or middle school.

Once I make the decision to become involved, how difficult is it to find a partnership that fits my availability or that of my employees?

A small or mid-size business might consider what we call an "episodic partnership" with a school or class. Arrange to do a one-time or once-every-several-months activity with the students. Holidays are a good time to make contributions of clothing, tickets to special events or to sponsor an activity, like a visit to the zoo, the science center or to a museum. Schools are appreciative of various levels of support, which may or may not expand into a more sustained partnership.

What are some examples of how my company can best use its resources to make an impact?

You might consider setting up a mock work environment with donated equipment, such as a copy center, a post office, bank or credit union or a cable networking studio. For example, the Epitec Groups recently sent 300 employees to repaint an old art room at an elementary school and donated 27 computers for a technology lab. Some businesses have painted their schools or portions of them and beautified the schoolyard. One business donated used musical instruments to the music class for students who couldn't afford to buy new ones. Older furniture, used computers and other workable equipment are also needed in some schools. Such contributions are tax-deductible.

Are more companies volunteering their time and resources to teach students about the world of work?

Yes. There are many ways to build partnerships that are related to workforce development. Companies are allowing workers to participate in mentoring activities at schools, either in person, over the telephone or online, where the teacher coordinates the process. Professionals also have lunch with students at schools, or have a small class come to their office to job-shadow and take a site tour.

Do participants find that students are enthused by these types...

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