Supporting Career Academy Programs

When you think about the recent headlines does it make you wonder why any student would consider finance as a career? Between bailouts and mergers, banking in particular has undergone a serious transformation.

I thought about this as I went to the first meeting of the Business and Finance Academy at Astronaut High School, and I wondered what the participation would be. I was pleasantly surprised to see a full room!

This brings me to the point, every high school in Brevard County has a variety of career and technical education programs, and we, as businessmen and women, have an opportunity to help make those programs successful.

All four Brevard County Chambers of Commerce support their high schools, and specifically their career academy programs, in various ways. Sometimes that support is financial, but most of the time it is with recognition programs and volunteers. You don’t have to be a parent to volunteer, and they are grateful for whatever time you have to give.

So, how are these programs making a difference?

At the end of last school year, more than 30 students graduated from Astronaut High School Health Sciences Academy with their CNA license. They were ready to go to work in the medical field, and continue their education. Many of the career and technology programs allow high school students to graduate with various certifications that make them immediately employable.

Not only are these students engaged in learning the technical side of their career choice, they are also learning the soft skills necessary to be successful. Interaction with current business professionals reinforces skills like appropriate attire, networking and punctuality to name a few. They even explore interaction with different personality types, and do teambuilding exercises to learn how to take advantage of each other’s strengths. There is a great need for volunteers to enhance the classroom curriculum with real-world experiences and conversations. At the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce, we invite academy students from each school to serve as “ambassadors” at our monthly luncheon to give them experience at meeting new people and interacting in a business environment. Are there similar opportunities in your business or professional association?

Ethics is another area where professionals can have a tremendous impact. Students are faced with tough decisions all the time, and they are shaping their own definition of “ethical decisions”. The business community’s interaction in their classroom can give them broader exposure to real world decision-making and with the right environment, they can feel free to debate hypothetical situations and talk about the “right” decisions. By volunteering and engaging these students in discussions about tough subjects like business ethics, we have the opportunity to help shape the future of our industries.

Finance is only one small piece of the total program for career and technical education through Brevard Public Schools. Every high school has multiple programs, and each program usually includes an advisory board and group of volunteers to work with the instructors on curriculum enhancement and field trip and internship opportunities.

For a complete listing of the programs at each school, you can visit www.ctebrevard.com. I know that making time for these students at our chamber programs has made a world of difference, and our members thoroughly enjoy the interaction.

As for my personal time volunteering in the classroom, I find that even though it’s sometimes hard to carve out a block of time to be away from the office, I always come back from the experience with new energy. It is great to watch these students progress through the program and gain new confidence and poise and know that in a very small way, I was a part of that growth.