by Joni Inman, Executive Director, Jefferson County Business Education Alliance
The Jefferson County Business Education Alliance (JCBEA) was born in 2011 out of a desire by the business community in Arvada to ensure that students were graduating with skills that prepared them for the workplace. Today it serves the entire Jefferson County community.
Dot Wright, then Executive Director of the Arvada Chamber and other members of the Arvada business community who employed young people formed the “Arvada Business Education Alliance” because they realized that the students they were interviewing, and ultimately hiring, lacked basic business skills: how to interview, how to dress, showing up for work on time, among them. They launched the first Workforce Readiness training at Pomona High School in 2012 to teach these skills.
The program, which is still the cornerstone of what is today the Jefferson County Business Education Alliance, consists of six sessions of after-school career readiness training taught by the business community. Real people in real jobs donating their time and skills to students. It is free of charge to the student and any high school student who wants to participate is included, no matter their GPA or after-graduation aspirations. No student is turned away.
To “graduate” from the program and earn a certificate that gives them priority hiring status at many Jeffco businesses, the student must attend all classes, be on time, and dress in business casual or better attire. At the conclusion of the program each student is afforded a one-on-one mock job interview with a member of the business community and the opportunity to job shadow with a local business executive.
The curriculum closely matches what the JCBEA has learned from the Jefferson County business community through a series of Business Roundtable discussions with employers, large and small. Business leaders have been working hard to help identify and define skill sets that students will need to be successful in the workplace. Jeffco has a very diverse group of employers, from primary employers like Lockheed Martin and the Ball Corporation, to those in the medical industry, and many, many smaller companies and smaller independent businesses. While the employment requirements of each of these employers is unique, there are a set of common skills required for the success of all in those workplace environments.
The Roundtable includes representatives from the school district as well as large Jeffco employers like Millers Coors and Kaiser Permanente and many smaller employers like real estate companies, restaurants, and local governments. As early as April of this year the group unanimously agreed that what they see lacking most in today’s job applicants are soft skills which include character, trustworthiness, dependability, and how to handle failure. Business leaders also expressed that a higher level of communication skills is necessary for success; these include skills in English, writing, grammar, as well as problem identification skills, not just problem solving skills.
The information garnered from the Roundtable participants is being used to refine the Workforce Ready sessions. The Skill Sets identified by the business community are now being presented to the broader business community for feedback. Once those are fully vetted the JCBEA will be presenting the outcomes to the school district.
The Jefferson County Business Education Alliance is an independent 501 (c)(3) organization. You can learn more at www.JCBEA.org. If you have questions, or would like to partner with and/or financially support the work of the organization, please contact Joni@JCBEA.org.
Joni Inman is a professional business consultant. She is also the former VP of Public Affairs for St. Anthony Hospital, deputy city manager and Director of the Mayor’s Office for the City of Lakewood, and covered Jefferson County as a newspaper reporter. She and her four children are all graduates of Jefferson County Public Schools.