Photos by Ava Kitzi
The Columbia Area Career Center has always sought to better prepare and train students for the careers available to them after graduation. And with the creation of a new position this year, that mission is being taken one step further.
Stacy Elsbury is the new business and industry engagement coordinator at the career center. Her role is to help bridge the gap between the center itself and local businesses, better connecting both students and teachers with industry leaders. “It’s actually the top goal for the career center, to have business and industry engagement because we connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the business world,” Elsbury says. “It just elevates the rigor; it elevates the relevancy. Everything just goes up when that happens.”
Elsbury says the position she now occupies actually has been requested for about three years, and she considers herself lucky to have been selected for it. She credits her variety of experience, from sales to management to entrepreneurial business, before she transitioned to the classroom, giving her the blend of business know-how and educational background that was needed. “All of that combined is what was really helpful,” Elsbury says.
The idea is that by getting more busi- nesses involved in the career center, both students and teachers will have a better understanding of the current and future needs in a variety of industries, allowing training to then be tailored to those needs. “The goal is to just have more industry engagement,” she says. “We want our students engaging on work sites with business industry leaders to get more relevant information. We want businesses to have the chance to partner with us in developing the talent pipeline that’s eventually going to be coming into their businesses.”
Elsbury is now focused on building and fostering relationships with area business leaders, searching for willing partners in her new quest for the career center. And there are a variety of ways those partnerships can happen. First, Elsbury says they would have a conversation about what the business is interested in and what would work best for them.
It could be an industry tour, which connects teachers to professionals in their industry to ensure that students are being taught the latest methods and needs. Or it could be a pop-in day, where students connect with professionals in their field of interest by going to the business and engaging in a hands-on activity. Then, the participating professionals are brought to the career center, where students get to take the lead and show them around. “Businesses are proud, rightfully so, of their companies and what they do,” Elsbury says. “We want students to be proud of where they’re spending their day.”
Elsbury says the career center tries to do two industry tours and two pop-in days each year. Other opportunities for businesses include pre-recorded interviews from industry leaders, guest speakers and chances to serve on advisory committees. Plus, field trips, job shadows, intern and externships, as well as any project-based learning opportunities.
All of these methods are geared to accomplishing that core goal of getting students ready for the workplace, as Elsbury says that’s what businesses report as the No. 1 struggle right now. “(Employers) want workplace readiness,” she says. “Well, kids need to be on the work site to get workplace ready. That’s where you really grow those skills and start to see that what teachers have been saying actually is true.”
While the career center educates students in a wide variety of industries, and Elsbury says they are looking for opportunities within each and every industry, she notes that engineering, information technology, digital media, emergency services, agriculture and auto are some of her primary focuses at the moment.
To learn more about the opportunities available at the Columbia Area Career Center, contact Elsbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-214-3800 ext. 29424.