The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce hosted their 32nd annual High School Business Symposium Nov. 21, bringing together high school students and local business leaders to share ideas and thoughts on the business climate in Jefferson County.
Charles Howard, past president of the Chamber and moderator for the day's event, said the gathering saw approximately 120 students paired with a variety of professionals in the community who were on hand to offer suggestions on youth job seeking and the types of opportunities which may be available in the county for teens and beyond. The students were selected by school counselors as top students in business and marketing classes.
Students spent time interviewing the businesspersons at their respective tables and then had to introduce those business people to the crowd.
Business leaders were highly impressed with the young people taking part in the symposium.
Chuck Ellison, with Frontier Communications, stated, "I'm speaking for a quite a few business leaders that was at the symposium yesterday and this years event was truly enjoyable. The high school students at my table and the other table as well were truly focused. There was a genuine attention level that was impressive!"
The students, after getting to know their leaders, were given several discussion questions to answer and then report to the room at large. In addressing what can be done to keep students in Jefferson County after they graduate, a consensus was reached that more jobs in specific fields need to be offered here. The students were then challenged by Howard and other business leaders in the room to make a point of finding out exactly what types of jobs are available.
Amy Allen, with the Jefferson County Development Authority, spoke to the students about the role of the Authority in attracting and then keeping businesses here. She explained that her job is all about showcasing the area and making it attractive to potential businesses.
"It's a marketing job and we're telling the Jefferson County story," she explained.
Students also commented on recreational activities in the county and the need for more things to do. Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Myers shared some plans the department has for increased recreational activities including the development of James Hite Park which will offer a soccer complex and other sporting venues. She also spoke of the move toward plans for an amphitheatre at Sam Michael's Park which will allow the county to bring in concerts.
The final question posed to the students involved service projects and other volunteer opportunities the students were involved in or could become involved in. Many of the students shared experiences with school clubs including the Key Club, FCCLA, FBLA and DECA where they participated in service projects. Others included 4-H projects, after school tutoring, visiting seniors and helping coach youth sports.
"The drive and self motivation that this group of students displayed led me to believe that they would be nothing but successful in their years of life to come! It was a very rewarding day to have the privilege to spend the day working with these kids," said Tara Orndorff, with the Hampton Inn and Suites.
Howard challenged the students and their teachers to take advantage of the resources available through the Chamber in contacting business leaders to speak to classes or provide job shadowing opportunities or internships.
"You may be surprised to find out what is here," Howard told the students, with regard to job opportunities in the county.
Howard also specifically challenged the teachers to invite Joe Cosentini and Andy Blake, city managers with Charles Town and Ranson respectively, to speak to their classes about what is involved in bringing businesses to the area.
"It's a lot more involved than simply saying, 'Man, I sure wish we had.....," Howard said.