Business and education really can intermingle.
Further proof of that was evident during the Carbon County Business Education Partnership Breakfast held Thursday at the Blue Ridge Country Club in Palmerton.
Successful individuals from both business and education who have partnered for over 20 years shared their insights and stories on how to educate the future workforce, become a community leader in economic development, and foster a culture of lifelong learning in Carbon County.
The program began with breakfast and networking, followed by opening remarks from Dawn Ferrante, Carbon County Business/Education Partnership interim chairperson/director of the Carbon County Economic Development Department.
Ferrante said "it's really exciting to have that kind of partnership" between business and education. She added that the group is "actively seeking a replacement" as chairperson/director of the organization.
Speakers included Dr. Ed Lyba, executive director, Greater Hazleton Partners in Education; Dr. Bob Runkle, executive director, Berks Business Education Coalition; and George Hayden, vice president, Hayden Electric.
Lyba said the breakfast kickoff was a "challenging opportunity for business leaders and education."
The Greater Hazleton Partners in Education, a business education partnership incorporated in 2000 with over 30 business and education members, has been identified by Gov. Ed Rendell as "A Program of Promise."
Lyba then showed a sample of video streaming tour to highlight the business community.
"We have to do as much as we can to make sure they are all aware of the opportunities," he said. "The video tours have been so essential in using it as a tool for orientation programs."
Lyba said the objective is to be able to "offer everyone jobs," and to "find the locations where those jobs are."
James Kraky, Lehighton Area School District Superintendent, concurred with Lyba's sentiment.
"It is really critical to get these kids involved in seventh and eighth grade, because the state is really pushing hard for remediation programs and trying to bridge those gaps,"Kraky said. "It's a holistic program."
Runkle commended the Carbon group for "having the vision to come together and seriously consider" the approach.
"We need to emphasize how important this type of experience can be," Runkle said. "We need to be competitive by having a highly skilled workforce."
Runkle said there are three primary focus areas: career development; supporting schools to improve/promote academic development; and post-secondary education.
"The most important thing to stress is to stay the course," he said. "This is something that has to be ongoing."
Hayden said his business was able to institute a Partners in Education program that teaches students about the partnership between business and education.
"It's about having students going into industry, and industry to classrooms," Hayden said. "We have students do job-shadowing, because it's important to give our young people opportunities."
Hayden said those seated before him are "stakeholders in young people's future."
"We need everyone in this room to get involved," he said. "Our goal is for all students to be challenged and given opportunities to be hired."
Cyndi Zimmerman, executive director, Carbon County Business/Education Partnership, gave an overview and call to action.
She said the workforce solution was funded by a grant awarded under the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration.
"Now it's up to you, the businesses, to step up and provide some assistance to us," Zimmerman said. "We need to get all the educators on board, ready to listen, and find out what you can do for us, and what we can do for you."
Steven Kew-Goodale, executive director of the Weatherly Institute for Robotics and Engineering, spoke of a program for students ages 6-18 where teachers and educators have an opportunity to mentor students.
Kew-Goodale said his program started six years ago, and has become a "successful way to introduce young people into science and technology."
"It is to allow our young people to grasp technology at a very young age through hands-on experiences, and working as a team," Kew-Goodale said. "These kids all understand the value of what you're looking for."
Kew-Goodale said the institution offers $11 million in scholarships every year.
The Carbon County Business/Education Partnership was established in Aug. 2009 to promote collaboration between business and education to strengthen workforce quality, develop career opportunities, and foster a culture of lifelong learning in the Carbon County region.
The goals are to collaborate with school districts to raise student achievement levels by aligning education with career preparation, to identify key business needs and incorporate academic curriculum, models, or programs, and to educate businesses on the benefits they will receive by participating in the partnership.