Over sandwich wraps and potato salad, Chattanooga business leaders plotted with high school principals about how to ready the next generation of local workers.
After two years of partnering with Lookout Valley High School, Glenn Morris, president and CEO of M&M Industries, decided it was time for other businesses to get involved with schools. On Wednesday the president of the chemical container manufacturer hosted a lunch for both groups at The Chattanoogan hotel.
"You have wasted your time if you come out of here today without contacts," he told the principals and the businesspeople.
M&M's partnership with Lookout Valley has consisted of field trips to the factory, presentations on how to apply for jobs and mock interviews with human resources personnel. Mr. Morris, who showed a video Wednesday of last school year's program at M&M, said he wanted other companies to brainstorm to come up ideas to help their local schools.
"After this, I want you all to say, 'Oh, that's a good idea, but we can do so much better,'" he said. "There's a huge disconnect between business and education."
Tom Wengler, director of business development for SRC Technology Solutions, one of about 40 businesses represented, said he had developed several seminars on how to succeed in college that he wanted to share with local high schoolers.
"If there's a way to help accelerate these kids in the work force, that's got to help someone, somewhere," he said.
Twenty minutes into the meet-and-greet portion of Wednesday's luncheon, Charles Joynes, who takes over as principal of Brainerd High School in July, had a stack of business cards at his table, and promising contacts with people at Regions Bank and Chattem, he said.
"It's not always about giving money. Give me resources, give me time," he said. "You've got to have real-world experiences, real-world connections."
Lookout Valley principal Lee McDade said his school's partnership with M&M is not only to prepare his students for manufacturing jobs, but to give them interview and presentation skills transferable to any number of jobs. The information is more effective coming from those in business, he said.
"When it comes from the people who hand them the paycheck, it means a lot more," he said.
Through the Public Education Foundation and the College Access Center, more than 100 rising high school seniors are participating in a college-mentoring program funded by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The program is meant to reach beyond the top students who are already planning and preparing for college and offer support to students who have grades and skills that make them eligible for higher education, but who may not know about opportunities. Eight businesses and four local high schools are involved.
Source: Public Education Foundation