The Oxnard Chamber successfully implemented all aspects of its Direct Path To Success (DPTS) proposal of 2016-17. The chief goal of the program was to increase the involvement of chamber members in work-based learning opportunities for local high school age youth including internships. Along the way, the program developed various tools and novel approaches to promoting this engagement. The program supported on-going annual events within the school district that provided opportunities for employers to become engaged with youth both in the classroom and in the workspace.
The work began by repurposing the chamber’s existing education sub-committee into the Workforce Education Readiness Committee (WERC) whose primary mission was to assist with the recruitment of other chamber members in support of the activities of the DPTS program. This realignment imparted a more action-oriented mission for the committee and satisfied the member’s feeling of a “return on investment,” since they got to see the immediate impact of the DPTS initiatives.
A unique activity spawned from the grant was the chamber’s Intern Bootcamp, which targeted juniors and seniors in technical education academies, in order to develop essential skills for the workplace. The chamber used responses collected from a survey of chamber members on the top five attributes either deficient or necessary in new hires to their organization. Next, HR professionals from within the chamber were recruited to present on these skill areas on both off-site and on-site sessions for students interested in preparing for an internship. In all over 50 high school students received this training from 10 volunteer presenters.
Another engagement opportunity unique to this program was the Girls in STEM day. Female chamber members from engineering and engineering-related businesses volunteered on a Saturday morning to conduct short activities focused on science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) with middle school-aged girls from local middle schools. Concurrent with the experiments, the engineers were encouraged to relate their own experience of how they were drawn to a STEM profession. This event brought together 24 volunteers with over 150 students. In addition, workshops on high school programs and college information were simultaneously offered for the parents.
The chamber partnered with the Oxnard Union HS District, the Ventura County Civic Alliance and the Ventura County Office of Education to make these and several other events come to fruition.
In February, the chamber supported the annual Job Shadow Day that had been initiated by the school district in the prior year. One-hundred and five students were placed in 25 different businesses to spend a couple of hours looking over the shoulder of a professional in whose work the student had expressed an interest.
In March, the chamber hosted an Entrée to Employment event, focused on the Hospitality industry. Eleven chamber organizations volunteered to attend an evening of informal discussion with 75 students who were taking courses to prepare them for careers related to hospitality. The students had an opportunity to ask in-depth questions about proper preparation for the career, nature of the work, salaries, working conditions, upward mobility, etc.
In May, the program assisted with the recurring Sweets at the Beach culinary competition. This event drew volunteers from the chamber member and host hotel, the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort, as well as chefs from chamber member organizations who served as judges for the event. The competition involves students from three different high schools and a number of academy programs including culinary, business-event planning, and multi-media promotion.
On going opportunities presented themselves through out the year so that chamber members were able to engage in guest speaking, judging of team projects, or giving mock interviews for local high school students. Partnerships developed in this program with private businesses and municipal agencies will result in approximately 40 internships for this summer, which previously have not existed.
In summary, the DPTS program engaged 75 new chamber partners in activities that reached over 2,000 students of local high and middle schools. It created new opportunities for professionals to become engaged with local students in ways that met the desired level of involvement of the business. Moreover, it raised awareness of chamber members to the value of internships. The chamber’s effort was able to demonstrate a program scalable to both larger and smaller organizations and replicable, since it only requires strong partnering with local educational agencies.