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Students match wits with business leaders

By Staff | Nov 21, 2014

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce hosted their 33rd annual High School Business Symposium Nov. 13, bringing together high school students and local business leaders to share ideas and thoughts on the business climate in Jefferson County.The students were selected by school counselors as top students in business and marketing classes from both Washington and Jefferson high schools.

Charles Howard, past president of the Chamber and moderator for the day’s event, shared suggestions on youth job seeking and the types of opportunities which may be available in the county for teens and beyond. A description of job shadowing opportunities was given by Howard in an effort to let the students realize that local businesses would encourage their visits to the workplace.

Students spent time interviewing the businesspersons at their respective tables and then had to introduce those business people to the crowd.

Chamber of Commerce director Heather McIntyre indicated that the Chamber is looking into developing a job shadow program to offer assistance to students.

A discussion question on the topic of shadowing had students sharing that they do have an interest in such a program which would at least expose them to potential career choices. The desired consensus was to have internships and job shadowing available in more technological, well-paying jobs.

The consistent question for the symposium year after focuses on what can be done in the county to encourage students to return and live and work here after college.

Students expounded on the stereotype of West Virginia being “hillbilly” which caused many of them to indicate they did not want to come back to the state. Physical improvement in aesthetics might help, some shared.

A resounding theme throughout the day was the lack of knowledge in what is actually available in Jefferson County. Students responded forcefully to a question posed by Howard asking how they felt their school had prepared them for the future and how their school had failed them.

Over and over again, the comments were heard that the high schools in the county do little to nothing to provide information to students on possible jobs in the county or elsewhere. Guidance counselors were labeled as completely ineffective by many of the students.

Students also claimed that there are very few life skills taught in the schools. More than one student voiced concern that too much emphasis is placed on testing and teaching things that are not needed for life. Teachers, students shared, focus on test scores more than on actual teaching. The Common Core program was hashed out as part of the discussion on meeting standards rather than ensuring students are actually learning.

Emily Matlock, a student at Jefferson, stood up and shared that many things she needs to know she taught herself.

“There is no public speaking class in the schools,” she said. “We need mandatory classes to prepare us for real life.”

After a lunch break, students gathered for an activity hosted by Pat Hubbard of Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, that required them to take a variety of objects placed in a paper bag and create a product. The students then had to present their project to the group in a way to make others want to purchase it.

The Business Symposium, according to Howard, is one of his favorite activities the Chamber hosts.

“These are our future leaders,” he said.