Collaboration with local business is an integral part of fostering meaningful SkillsUSA partnerships

Dorchester Career and Technical Center in Cambridge, Md., connected engaged learning with local business by hosting a series of employability skills panel discussions. Working with the president of the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, chapter officers planned and facilitated discussions relative to the SkillsUSA Framework.

The goal was to have six businesses participate, but the chapter exceeded those expectations with 11 businesses representing the hospitality, transportation, construction, insurance and engineering industries. Four sessions were held during the school day to involve all chapter members and encourage small group discussions. Panelists discussed employability skills and why they are important, and students asked a series of well-prepared questions. Businesses also provided specific insight into the hiring process relative to the framework, provided beforehand.

A chapter survey revealed 95 percent of students felt the event was beneficial. Students also gained a valuable networking opportunity. Hyatt, the largest employer in the area, plans to return to assist students on an individual basis.

“This activity demonstrated that personal growth begins within. You have to be willing to learn from others,” said Brianna Todd. “By asking questions of businesspeople directly, we gained industry knowledge as well as advice on how to put your best foot forward in all you do. Factors such as body language and different types of communication are an important part of this.”

Students learned about work ethic from the viewpoint of a business owner or an employee through role play. Panelists gave specific examples, including ethical dilemmas, relative to their industry.

Members showed professionalism in their communication with the chamber president during planning and in their interaction with business leaders during the event. They have also practiced professionalism during mock interviews, in class, and at SkillsUSA events. Self-motivation was evident in the self-directed preparation for the panel discussion and in the goal-oriented perspective gained from this activity. Members are even more motivated to accept feedback and learn from it. Business and education working together — framework skills validation by those who know it best.

Member Quadry Lake added, “This activity was an excellent lesson in professionalism; you never know who is watching! I had a job interview two weeks after we did this, and it really impacted my ability to give a good interview on the phone and in person. It also taught me the importance of taking the initiative to help others.”