Cobb’s local business leaders are partnering with Campbell High School to make a difference in the skillsets of our future workforce.
By Jennifer Morrell
It’s no secret that the best path to understanding the business landscape is to be immersed in it, gaining experience that can only be found on the job. In 2018, in an effort to further connect the business community to Campbell High School students through career development, Assistant Principal Joshua Ford partnered with the Smyrna Business Association to form the Campbell Business Association (CBA).
The association’s mission is to connect local businesses to the student body and help them prepare for the workforce through a unique networking experience. Ford says the association’s mission aligns with Campbell High School’s mission of preparing CHS graduates for college, skills certification, and/or career placement.
“This strategic focus will develop the necessary employability skills in our students that local Cobb businesses need, while recruiting and working directly with their future employees for years to come,” he says. “CBA’s focus is to create multiple pathways for every student, every day to become successful by developing the employability skills needed in the current workforce.”
The program has been well-received by businesspeople, community leaders, and students. “As a small business owner, parent, and City Council member, I see the importance of connecting local businesses with our city’s greatest resource: our young people,” says Tim Gould, Smyrna City Council. “The long-term success of our local businesses and our high school are tied together. The business partners give Campbell High students the platform to show off their skills and accomplishments to our local business leaders.”
“The CBA has shown me how interconnected businesses are with the school and community,” says Isabell Adams, a CHS senior, CBA intern, and student mentee of Ford. “Local businesses and the school work together, and as a result, gain long-lasting relationships that develop into a healthy partnership. It takes a village to run a successful business that empowers the community. Businesses help each other and use each other’s strengths to improve their business culture. Here in Smyrna, businesses network with Campbell High School and the community to help one another.
“My experience has helped me understand the importance of being prepared for job readiness,” Adams continues. “High School prepares you for college, but the CBA program has helped me gain an understanding of what I want in a career other than my degree or certificate. The CBA provides students with opportunities to apply and develop their strengths and interests into working careers.”
How it works
Campbell Business Association meetings incorporate a project-based learning focus, while developing essential professional aptitudes that include networking, entrepreneurship, teamwork, leadership, and public speaking. Campbell High School offers students several Career Tech programs that emphasize skills training and development in a career pathway focus.
During the November 2019 CBA meeting, students and businesses worked in small groups to create an imaginary business product and to develop a business pitch for the product. Both students and businesses worked on developing professional aptitudes during the project-based learning activity.
During CBA networking events, students are offered continued opportunities through work-based learning, internships, apprenticeships, and jobs. Students can provide a need for a business that lacks employees with the relevant technological skills needed to stay relevant in today’s business climate. For example, by hiring a generation of workers fluent in social media and website development, local businesses will have the capacity to improve their online presence and grow their potential profit.
So far, the students participating in the program are hitting the mark. “When I was president of the Smyrna Business Association in 2018, we approached Josh Ford and [CHS teacher] Michael Chasteen about helping us find high school interns for our association. We wanted four, and they sent 11,” says David Monroe, owner/broker, JWC Real Estate, and principal/owner, Berryfield Hotel Group. “These interns were so sharp, our members embraced them and even used them in their own businesses. The interns get real-world business stories of success as well as failure, and they also get to understand the social side of business, not just numbers.”
The students are enjoying the program as well. Eleventh-grader Lyric Love is a Work Based Learning student and CBA intern. “Being a part of the Campbell Business Association has been an incredibly enriching experience,” she says. “Having the ability to work with Mr. Ford and Mr. Chasteen in order to help them with the day-to-day responsibilities of the business has not only helped us build upon our communication skills, but also aided in the development of our employability skills.”
CBA luncheons take place monthly in Campbell High’s gymnasium lobby, catered by local restaurants. A business can become a CBA member and sponsor through two sponsorship opportunities that provide a substantial return of benefits. Businesses also can support the funding of the program by becoming a CBA member for $50, which assists with the program’s ability to give back to educators, students, and businesses.
Ford says all businesses can benefit from this program. “With successful and sustained business partnerships, we will be able to provide our students, teachers, school, and community with the necessary resources to prepare future generations for success in any career after high school,” he says. “The lasting result is an improved workforce in Cobb with highly trained individuals who can make a positive financial impact on the City of Smyrna, Cobb County, and the City of Atlanta.”
“The CBA is providing students with an opportunity to actually organize and run a business meeting,” says Steve Gardner, president, Alpine Sign & Graphics Studio. “It is a great opportunity to do that while in a learning environment. I believe it will help the students gain a level of comfort, so they will be well prepared to participate in meetings and business networking events early in their work careers.”
“The relationships that the CBA has formed in the community with local businesses continues to grow, and it makes good business sense to continue involvement,” says Barb Allen, president, SBA, and community development and outreach officer, CenterState Bank. “For example, one of the students was interning at an SBA luncheon and sat at the table with a local business icon who owns an engineering firm. As they were engaging in conversation, the student shared her goals to study engineering. The business owner invited her to tour his engineering office, and during this tour she was offered an internship. This involvement with Campbell High, the SBA, and local businesses makes a positive impact on both students and businesses. Additionally, it opens doors for Campbell High to more deeply impact their students.”
Nic Dixon, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Cityside and president-elect for the SBA, is acutely aware of how important local schools are to our community. “Campbell High School is integral to the operations of the SBA’s day-to-day activities,” he says. “The Campbell High School orchestra performs at our monthly luncheons, and we have interns providing support functions, such as running the slideshow presentations, greeting guests at the door, and fulfilling various ad-hoc responsibilities as they arise.
“Last year, we granted access to students with businesses to display in booths at our annual Business Expo alongside the established businesses within our community,” Dixon continues. “These students have a large impact on the success of our city, and have supported the growth of the SBA for these many years. It makes perfect sense for them to start their own business association, and for us to be involved and support these students in this new endeavor.”
For more information on the program or to become a member, contact Joshua Ford at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org.