Opening Up the World of Work: Another Benefit of School–Business Partnerships

Students are reluctant to study for jobs they don't see around them, so a rural student who has never met a software designer, a surgeon, or an attorney is unlikely to become one. This is another reason why school/ business partnerships can be so valuable: Businesses can provide students job shadowing and internship opportunities, help them see pathway connections, and provide in-kind and direct support to both schools and students.

But the benefits of school/business partnerships go both ways: Schools can provide businesses access to their future workforce and help businesses build goodwill in the community, while improved schools can help businesses with hiring new and maintaining current employees.

The forms of career education that businesses provide are as varied as the businesses themselves. Here are some examples of successful initiatives.

Aviation Day with Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines offers programs to expose students to the airline industry in urban sites throughout the country. When I contacted Greg Muccio, Director of Talent Acquisition at Southwest, Airlines to see if they would do a program for rural schools and students, Muccio said, "Why not? We're always looking to build the pipeline for future employees."

CFES Brilliant Pathways and Southwest Airlines teamed up for Aviation Day to educate students across the Adirondacks about the growing number of good-paying jobs in the airline industry and how to access them.

The Campus Reach Program at Southwest Airlines identifies and engages future Southwest employees at an early age to inspire an interest in aviation careers. Teams from Southwest facilitated aviation lessons and classroom activities with students at ten Adirondack rural schools.

"Aviation Day was an opportunity for us to share with students what companies like Southwest look for in employees so they can start honing those skills now," said Muccio. "The Essential Skills™ that CFES teaches, like agility, leadership, and teamwork, are exactly what we want when we hire."

Jobs within the airline industry are diverse and call for a wide range of skills. Some of the most popular jobs include customer service representative, airline administrative support, flight attendant, pilot, operations agent, security officer, air traffic controller, maintenance technician, aircraft mechanic, sales representative, facilities technician, reservations clerk, and inspector.

During the CFES Aviation Day, Southwest organized activities tailored to different grade levels. These included aviation charades and leadership lessons based on the experiences of a woman named Bessie Coleman, who overcame obstacles to gain her pilot's license and became the first African American woman to fly solo in the United States; a paper airplane making contest and a teamwork-based session; a personal branding lesson, in which students created a personal brand statement; and information sessions about all the opportunities in the airline industry.

It's also worth noting that aviation careers are relevant for students in the Adirondacks looking to build their professional lives close to home. Nearby Plattsburgh, Albany, and Burlington airports employ upward of 2,000 people. Albany International Airport employs over 1,000 people, with salaries ranging from minimum wage in food services to more than $100,000 for aircraft mechanics.

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