Bus to Business creates student opportunities

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Among the stops on the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce's Bus to Business tour, which gave students a first-hand look at possible job opportunities, was HealthWorks Medical in Paducah.

The challenge of connecting with potential employees often emerges when business leaders talk about the workforce. I too have questioned, how can we let young people know what modern manufacturing -- or other vocations -- offer in job variety, pay, advancement and other opportunities?

I have learned that finding a way to make those connections doesn't have to be complicated. What dozens of employers across Kentucky recently learned, is that a good place to start is by applying the "go and see" principle -- bringing students into their businesses for a close-up look at the work, the people and the opportunities.

I'm a big believer that young people need to see what businesses do, and the only way that is going to happen is if we create an opportunity for them to see our workplace.

During a visit to one of our local schools earlier this year, I learned the school didn't have the funds for such a field trip. I could see that the cost of transportation was a roadblock for schools that could easily be knocked down by business leaders.

Sharing my experience at our spring meeting of the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Board of Managers led to some brainstorming that resulted into the concept of Bus to Business.

We started with a pilot test. Students from Taylor County High School visited Murakami Manufacturing in Campbellsville, meeting with employees, touring the plant and sitting down to ask questions and discuss what they had seen and heard.

Their interest and enthusiasm made it clear that this was something we should expand to include other employers, and Bus to Business took off.

On Oct. 2 more than 1,200 students visited 32 businesses in 24 counties. The day was organized by the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center in partnership with Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG), and it had financial support from participating businesses and grant funds.

The students had an opportunity to explore possible careers with employers in their communities as they toured facilities, completed hands-on, work-based learning activities and spoke directly with business leaders about their professions. Employers, meanwhile, had a chance to speak directly to potential future employees to let them know the careers that would be available to them after high school.

As business leaders, we have a responsibility to get people into our facilities, and Bus to Business is a simple way to make that happen. If we want young people to see our business, we have to reach out to our local schools so they know what is available and how they can connect students with these opportunities.

The inaugural Bus to Business Day was a great success, we expect next year to give more students across Kentucky -- and beyond -- a close-up look at the exciting possibilities their futures hold.

To learn more about the Bus to Business initiative and participate in "Bus2Biz" 2020, please visit the Kentucky Chamber's website at kychamber.com/bus2business.

Michael A. Rodenberg is CEO of Murakami Manufacturing USA, Inc., and chair of the Kentucky Workforce Center Board of Managers.

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