School/Business Partnerships
By Beth Bruno, Meriden Magazine

School/Business Partnerships  Forging relationships, bridging gaps in understanding and preparing students for the world of work are just a few of the exciting and successful goals of Meriden�s School/Business Partnership Program.  Since the 1980�s, Meriden has been bringing students and working professionals together, to help students gather practical experiences and understanding in community businesses.
  The partnership program began as an effort to find doctors and nurses to mentor high school students enrolled in CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), to supervise their interactions with patients and complete their training.  This Medical Careers Program has expanded over the years to train laboratory assistants who receive supervised on-the-job experience at a local pathology lab.
  Jim Ieronimo, Director of Adult Continuing and Career Education Programs, has been responsible for greatly expanding the school/business partnerships, which are now a substantive part of education for students at elementary, middle and high school levels.  Businesses large and small provide school-based mentorships and career education, as well as company-based tours, internships, employment (both paid and volunteer) and opportunities for students to shadow employees in order to learn and firsthand about different careers.
  For example, Tom Barton, the owner of Web Solutions, a web design firm on Broad Street, has hired several high school students during the past four years to work directly with designers and technicians on company projects.  Lori O�Brien, a copywriter at Web Solutions, raves about the skills and imaginations these students display.  �The students have worked out so well, that even those who are now in college come back to work for us during their semester breaks.  They are paid employees who we value for their skills and eagerness to learn.�
  During the annual Career Day at the middle schools, Barton occupies the Lincoln Middle School computer lab, where he demonstrates software programs to students and gives them design problems to tackle.
  Each year there is a career day at the middle schools and a career fair at the high school, where approximately 70 businesses � large and small � are represented.  The middle school level career days were instituted four years ago in the hopes that knowledge about different businesses might help guide student course selections in high school.  Similarly, the high school career fairs educate students about the training requirements for post-secondary occupations.
  To broaden the scope of career exploration in grades four through twelve, Ieronimo and his staff have collaborated with several local businesses to create a series of �Career Awareness� workbooks and companion videos.
  These workbooks explore �via anecdotes and written exercises-cooperation, communications, interviewing, personal qualities, time management and dozens of other job-related skills and abilities that are presented in the context of working for specific local companies that students will earn about or visit.  Companion videos bring the exercises to life through the voices of employees as they deal with a variety of situations at work.
  A fifth workbook, currently under development in collaboration with Dan DeRosa, Senior Vice President of Castle Bank, will teach students about careers in banking and finance.  Lessons will help clarify and demystify financial terms by taking students through steps they will take in the future to find a job, manage a budget, buy a home, establish good credit and qualify for a loan.
  �Sometimes the choice of a career isn�t strictly based on what one studies in school,� DeRosa says.  �I graduated with a degree in criminal justice and couldn�t find a job, so I returned to school to study business administration.  After I graduated, I began networking with friends.  One of them told me about a job in Stamford with a regional bank.  I applied and got the job, not only because I had the educational credentials, but also because I could play baseball and the branch manager was looking for players on the company team!  You never know what�s going to open a door for you.�
  Jim Ieronimo constantly seeks substantive ways to bring students, teachers and local businessmen and women together because everyone benefits.  Students benefit from on-the-job training in internships, meeting role models who are successful, caring adults, recognition for their achievements and preparation for planning for the future.  The teachers, on the other hand, receive donated equipment, ideas for future curriculum enrichment and opportunities for professional development.  And businesses benefit from the use of school facilities for training, a qualified pool of student volunteers and the development of a future talent and potential employee pool.
  Meriden businesses run the gamut from large manufacturing plants to high-tech firms to retail/food/service establishments to sole proprietorships.  Employers from any and all businesses in the city are welcome and encouraged to contact Jim Ieronimo to become partners with school professionals in the education of Meriden�s children.

For more information about the School/Business Partnership Program, contact the Career Education Office at 203-630-4190.

Friday, March 28, 2003

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