Spokane Journal of Business

New GSI program to connect students with businesses

Organization, partners plan to show kids STEM industry jobs

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Greater Spokane Incorporated plans to launch next February a new program, called Business AfterSchool, aimed at connecting students here with businesses, says workforce-policy program coordinator Meg Lindsay.

    The program is for grades 8 through 12, she says, and businesses that sign up will host open-house type events for students, teachers, parents, and other community organizers.

    Business AfterSchool will take place over four chosen weeks throughout 2014.

    Each week will be designated for a different industry: engineering week, Feb. 17 -20;  health care week, April 14-18; manufacturing week, Sept. 29-Oct. 3; and computer science week, Dec. 8-12.

    GSI chose the dates for the program because those weeks correspond with nationally designated weeks for recognizing those industries, and the organization wanted to take advantage of that, she says.

    "We wanted to align the dates with opportunities that already exist and add to them, rather than compete with them," Lindsay says.

    The program is focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries because those industries are experiencing so much growth, she says.

    "We have a lot of data around the fact that, for example, by 2018, there will be a 24 percent increase in STEM opportunities in this area," Lindsay says. "There's a lot of employment going in that direction."

    The open houses will be free of charge, Lindsay says.

    Businesses that want to be associated with the program can choose to sponsor an individual industry week or all four weeks, she says.

    "We want students to take a real-life look at what happens in a business," she says. "We're asking the businesses to help us design the individual open-house programs."

    Lindsay says GSI decided to start the program as an alternative to its career exploration days, where the organization asks businesses to set up booths at the fairgrounds, and kids are bused out to learn about the businesses.

    "This is a more real-life opportunity for students to learn," she says.

    Lindsay says GSI is sending businesses requests for participation that ask them not only to participate, but to help design the events as well.

    So far, she says, CH2M Hill, Spokane Water Resources, and GeoEngineers Inc. have signed up to host open houses for engineering week, and GSI has received sponsorships from CH2M Hill, GeoEngineers Inc., and Coffman Engineers Inc.

    Kevin Dudley, marketing and communications coordinator at GSI, says the program will give students a closer look at what working at a businesses is really like.

    Dudley compares the program to the traditional school career day, but slightly different.

    "This is kind of flipping it so that students can actually see what it looks and feels like to work at an engineering firm or a manufacturing firm," Dudley says.

    He also says the program aims to show kids before they graduate what post-high school education they might need to get the job they want.

    The program, Dudley also says, is part of GSI's support for the community wide goal of having 60 percent of the greater Spokane population attain an associate degree or above by 2025.

    Currently, about 43 percent of the population has that level of education, he says.

    The goal, Dudley and Lindsay both say, is to connect students with career opportunities here.

    In the future, she says, GSI would like to expand the program to offer similar programs in other industries.

    "We've had several questions already from businesses outside of the four," she says. "We're working with these four with the thought to grow and provide more opportunities in the future."

Katie Ross
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Reporter Katie Ross covers manufacturing, hospitality, and government at the Journal of Business. An outdoor enthusiast and snowboard fanatic, Katie is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University.  

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