Local Chamber Connects Students with Industry
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The New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Bristol Community College, the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board and Youth Council, and the City of New Bedford Office of the Mayor in order to recognize the need for work-based, educational opportunities for students in southern Massachusetts. The resulting Connecting Activities Partnership places students directly with employers and encourages hands-on learning opportunities.
The Connecting Activities Partnership has collaborated with six high schools and more than 150 employers in the greater New Bedford area, having served almost 700 students through work-based learning opportunities. The partnership connects students with employers by offering internships, job shadowing opportunities, and career fairs to give program participants a better understanding of career paths and goals.
On the internship experience, Ian Abreu, manager of Workforce & Business Development for the New Bedford Area Chamber said, “These valuable internship experiences allow our local students a robust opportunity to become college and career ready. Essentially, when an employer hosts a high school intern, they are making an investment in the future workforce development of our community.”
Encouraging collaboration among local communities, businesses, and schools, the partnership has led to almost 150 local and regional employers hosting students, in addition to offering workshops, speaking events, and job seminars. Some of the most involved industries have been healthcare, offshore wind, commercial fishing, as well as advanced manufacturing which alone makes up roughly 20% of New Bedford’s workforce.
Using the Massachusetts Work Based Learning Plan (WBLP), employers can gauge the progress of the students while they receive hands-on work experience. The plan aims to:
- Identify a student’s ability level within a specific skill area
- Drive quality of student learning and productivity through goal-setting
- Assess student progress in skill gain throughout their internship
Massachusetts’ WBLP was developed by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in collaboration with workforce development professionals, employers, and educators. It encourages students to develop foundational skills and set workplace goals in such a way that connects co-op and internship experiences with academics.
The New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce convened four employer-led industry focus groups in January and February 2009 to capitalize on the outcomes of the program and recommend improvements. Recently, the partnership was awarded a $10,000 AMP It Up! matching grant through MassDevelopment, which the partnership will use to “conduct outreach and programs that will educate young people and adults about career options in advanced manufacturing,” Abreu said.
It is now reviewing employer goals such as growth of the mentoring and internship programs and expansions in job workshops, preparedness seminars, teacher externships, and foundational skills programs.
The New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce balances academic and work needs for young adults while fostering collaboration between industry and education—all of which is intended to better develop an informed and skilled workforce for the benefit of both students and employers.
For more information about New Bedford’s efforts, visit their website.