Program helps students join work world

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Oh, kids these days.

Dot Wright, the Arvada Chamber of Commerce President ran a business for years, that employed around two-dozen teenagers

“It was often their first job, and I saw that many of them weren’t ready for it, on the interview side, workplace attire side, the importance of showing up to work on time,” Wright said.

Speaking with other business owners, she quickly realized that the issue of young people entering the workforce without some basic business skills was widespread.

Nearly three years ago Wright and other Arvada business owners launched the Arvada Business Education Alliance, and it quickly gained traction, with successful projects such as a business education program being formed at Pomona High School.

Wright said that a year ago, the group decided to expand the program, and take it to a countywide level with the support of the Board of County Commissioners.

That marked the start of the Jefferson County Business Education Alliance (JCBEA). In its first year of operation, a full-time director has been hired, entrepreneur mentorship relationships have been created at Red Rocks Community College and Regis University and helped host a youth job fair.

“That is our mission, that students are workforce ready. The business community understands that need and have been very willing to help,” Wright said.

Getting those two things together — educators and business community resources — is a primary focus for Annie Mosbacher, the JCBEA Program Director. She said one of the new organization’s key roles will be in serving as a “one-stop shop” nexus for all education and business resources in the county.

“We want to create a better, more skilled work force,” Mosbacher said, adding that educators and students have been happy to receive real-world input.

“It’s really an investment for the future, because something like 80 percent of young people who receive educations here, stay here.”

At Red Rocks Community College, the JCBEA has already helped match local business leaders with students enrolled in Donna Armelino’s entrepreneur class, with what she calls “phenomenal results.”

”Those students are getting a firsthand experience of what it’s like to run a business. Having those real-world stories of success and failure is invaluable,” Armelino said.

Initial funding for the JCBEA came largely from the Jefferson County Workforce Center, which runs out in June. To sustain the program Mosbacher said she hopes to gain 501c3 status and use a combination of private business sponsorship, fundraising, and public funding to sustain the program. In future years, the plan for JCBEA includes an awards banquet, regular job skill boot camps, teacher training courses, and expanded mentoring and job shadowing opportunities.

“It’ll be adaptable and flexible to the needs of our community,” Mosbacher

said.

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