Best Practices
March 5, 2009

Chambers in Oregon Paving a New Trail

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How does the business community actively get engaged in bridging high school students to the world of work – especially when taking into consideration many students graduating high school are ill-prepared for the workplace?

The Salem and Keizer Chambers of Commerce have partnered with the Salem-Keizer School District, and E3: Employers for Education Excellence, to create Ready to Learn – Ready to Work. This initiative focuses on matching businesses in the community one-on-one with high school students before they graduate to impart what is really being demanded by employers in the region. Through a variety of activities such as job shadowing, internships, and workplace tours, businesses are assisting local educators in preparing young people with the skills needed to succeed and the networks to hopefully remain in the community.

"Employers recognize that workforce development is critical to our economic success," said Cori Clausen, director of workforce development for the Salem and Keizer Chambers of Commerce. "Ready to Learn - Ready to Work has provided a means for our chambers and local employers to be engaged in a meaningful way in helping prepare our youth for success in the workplace and college."

Since its launch in January 2007, 5,000 students have been affected through the Ready to Learn -- Ready to Work program. Below are few highlights from that first year:

  • 780 volunteer hours from the local business community focused on workforce development, which translates into an average of 4.5 hours per day in which someone from the business community was in a classroom
  • 166 career-related guest speakers presented in classrooms
  • 38 mock interview sessions were conducted
  • 58 career mentoring sessions were launched
  • 29 job shadows were placed

"There is a growing understanding that the success of the school district is tightly correlated with Salem's future prospects," said Bill Church, executive editor of the Salem Statesmen Journal and member of the program leadership team. "Ready To Learn – Ready To Work" has helped the community recognize that student achievement is a team sport. Everyone needs to be in the game." 

Learn more about the Ready to Learn – Ready to Work initiative online. Also, read more about the Salem and Keizer Chambers and the work they are doing to improve their region every day.