In partnership with a school and/or youth-serving organization (such as 4-H or Boys & Girls Clubs), you can help young people explore opportunities that are the first step toward a career. In the process, you can help them develop new interests and set goals, show them what they must do to achieve their goals, and inspire them to stay in school and succeed.
In all of these ways you will contribute to reversing the national dropout crisis and equipping the next generation of young people for success.
What’s in it for you?
Community partnerships are a great business investment. They improve your visibility and image, foster employee pride, help attract new and better workers, and expand your consumer base. Many employers find that providing career exploration opportunities also helps in the long run to attract highly motivated young people to their industry or company.
Business is the top consumer of our education system. When you invest in helping students stay in school and succeed, you’re really investing in the future of businesses like yours.
How to Get in the Game
Schools and youth-serving organizations can be excellent partners for career exploration, but other organizations in your community (such as faith-based groups, especially ones that serve at-risk young people) can be excellent potential partners, too.
When you consider forging a community partnership, first:
- Find out if your business already has community partnerships on which you can build.
- Send out an employee survey or create a suggestion box to determine whether any of your colleagues has a personal connection to a school or organization (such as a board membership, a child who attends, or an alumni relationship).
- Research potential partners to ensure a good fit. What are their goals? What populations do they serve? What other partners do they currently have? Is there potential to draw these other partners into your effort?
Call or email the main line and ask to speak to the person responsible for school-business partnerships. Lead teachers or parent volunteers often help coordinate community activities. If no one is assigned that role, ask for the principal.
Keep in mind that educators are very hard to reach once the bell rings. Call before classes begin, during lunch, or at the end of the school day. Be prepared to leave a voicemail.
Contacting a Youth-Serving Organization
Start with the executive director, who can handle your inquiry directly or connect you to the staff member assigned to work with businesses. Youth-serving organizations are usually available during traditional business hours and some evenings, but keep in mind that their busiest times are often after 3pm, when school is out.
What to Say:
Introduce yourself and your business. Explain that you’re interested in exploring a partnership to provide young people with opportunities to explore careers in your field or company. Address how a partnership would fit with the other party’s current partnerships and needs. Describe how it benefits the students, the school/organization, and your business. Keep in mind that teachers and youth workers usually seek activities that contribute to young people’s academic or personal growth and expose them to new ideas. Ask if the contact would be open to scheduling an appointment to discuss how you might work together.
Career exploration can involve a wide variety of activities. Since every school, community and partnership are different, there is no particular activity that is right for every situation.
In consultation with your partner(s), discuss and establish some mutual goals, expectations and desired outcomes for your project. Then, choose an activity that reflects these goals and that addresses your needs and the strengths of your partnership.
Here are some examples of career exploration activities:
During career fairs, community members set up exhibit booths and talk to young people about their jobs. A career fair will likely require you to coordinate with your partner to:
- Secure space
- Recruit enough staff —as well as representatives from other businesses— to address the anticipated crowd
- Make sure staff are prepared to describe their daily responsibilities, educational background, and how they apply what they learned in middle and high school to their jobs
- Pass out background or promotional material about your business
Job Shadow Days
In this activity, young people follow an employee as she or he spends a day in the workplace. Job shadowing helps young people understand what a job looks like day-to-day and how the skills they’re learning in school might be applied in the workplace. To make the most of the day:
- Match youth to employees in groups of up to three.
- Consider asking your partner to design interactive learning activities or assignments to help young people understand the work at hand.
- Encourage employees to describe the business’ mission as well as their jobs, working hours, required education, and necessary skills; ask them to share their previous work experience and what they like about their jobs.
Bringing students to your business, letting them tour your facility, and introducing them to employees is an effective way to expose them to new careers and industries. To organize a tour:
- Recruit enough staff to provide an adult-student ratio in line with school or business policy.
- Work with your partner to establish expectations about how long the tour will take, learning goals, and student behavior.
Career Days/Classroom Visits
Offer or accept an invitation to visit your partner’s site, describe your business, and/or share your expertise on a subject students are studying. Before you go:
- Ask your partner to provide an agenda and clarify the instructional goals; connect your presentation to these goals.
- If you plan to use technology for your presentation, check with the site and make sure the room can accommodate your needs.
- Prepare a presentation for the students (such as a PowerPoint, hands-on learning activity, video, or handout) that shares your expertise and introduces students to your field.
Professional Development for Teacher
Businesses can also inspire teachers and youth workers, who in turn will educate and inspire students. Consider:
- Offering a summer externship, in which educators work hands-on with a staff member to deepen their understanding of how academic subjects are applied in professional settings
- Collaborating on a classroom curriculum that highlights industry examples
Remember, the activity you choose doesn’t have to involve any of the categories above. It can be absolutely unique! Unleash your creativity to develop a program that will be interesting to young people and broaden their experience while supporting the goals of your organization and your partners.
Here are a couple of examples of all-star career exploration activities that might inspire your own thinking. Remember, however, that your own project doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive to be valuable.
- Generation Green
In their Earthwatch Institute expedition for educators, Northrop Grumman aims to create our next generation of environmental ambassadors. The Weightless Flights of Discovery program offers science workshops and parabolic flights to teachers, who ultimately impact students’ education, particularly in math and science.
- Science in the Summer
During students’ summer vacations, GlaxoSmithKline partners with educators and local libraries to sponsor free science classes and hands-on science experiments. The workshops maintain and further young people’s interest in science.
Communication is the key to any successful partnership. Before you start an activity:
- Talk with your partners about what everyone’s roles and responsibilities will be.
- Draw up a budget, work plan, and timeline. (For examples, visit The Conference
Board and Corporate Voices for Working Families).
- Establish a steering or planning committee (with members from both your organization and your partner organization) to monitor and evaluate the activity.
No matter which activity you decide to do:
- Secure adequate and appropriate space for the activity
- Give your partner information about your business to share with young people
- Engage your employees; they’re more likely to participate if they understand the activity’s purpose and desired outcome. If school regulations allow, provide the names of the students with whom your employees will interact.
- Establish a meeting point and directions, including where to park, which entrance to use, and any security procedures visitors will undergo
- Make sure you and your partners understand precautions and policies; these may include a background check, fingerprinting, or proof of vaccination
- Provide a schedule to outline the flow of events
- Consider inviting media to the event
- Provide refreshments, sample products, or other giveaways if your partner’s regulations and the budget allow
Recognizing partners and participants will help sustain your relationships and set you up for ongoing, mutually beneficial collaboration. After an event, you might:
- Send a company-wide letter from the CEO thanking employees for their participation. Mention employees by name and include any positive feedback received.
- Host a celebration for participants and senior executives.
- Display photographs of the activity.
- Display posters or banners promoting the activity.
- Post information about the activity on your website or in a newsletter.
- Hold a lunch or breakfast for participants to reflect on the experience.
- At staff meetings, give certificates and describe the participants’ contributions.
- Conduct a post-activity discussion with students to evaluate what they learned about career pathways. What new jobs did they hear about? In what companies or industries? What did they enjoy most about the activity? What, if anything, should be done differently next time?
- Create an executive summary or brief PowerPoint presentation about the impact your activity had on the students and the partner organizations.
- Show executives, school officials, community members, and the media your results (you may have to schedule more than one presentation).
- Conduct a brown bag lunch among participants (including you and your employees, students, parents/families, and school representatives) to discuss the partnership’s strengths, weaknesses, and next steps.
- Partners must work together to identify where the goals of schools, communities, and businesses intersect.
- Businesses, schools, and youth-led organizations work differently. Expect to invest some time in setting up a partnership. A shared work plan and budget will help establish roles and responsibilities.
- Look for a “champion” within your organization — someone respected by colleagues — who can share the vision with others and build internal support for the project.
- Schedule regular times during the activity planning to talk about progress and challenges.
- Keep in touch and plan the next activity even after you say thank you.