The role of a Chamber of Commerce in a community is often driven by the needs of the businesses within that community. The Batavia business community asks us for networking events, educational programming, and local advocacy. A recent wave of demand has come from the industrial and service sectors of our community; think of the warehouses and manufacturing plants along the eastern border, and plumbers, HVAC techs and mechanics. Those businesses are having difficulty hiring qualified employees. What can the Batavia Chamber of Commerce do? We listen, ask our community partners if they have any ideas, and land on a plan of action.
This time, our community partner is the Batavia Public School District. They have a challenge in their own right, placing students not bound for college. In Batavia, about 10 percent of students are not destined for a four-year college degree. So how can the school district groom them for success? Maybe we can help bridge the gap between the school district and the business community.
Our first step was a tour of industrial companies with representatives from school administration and school counselors. The idea was to show the middle school and high school counselors the types of jobs that are available, along with possible career tracks in those industrial businesses. They saw well-paying jobs with great benefits, along with clean and supportive work environments. We toured three businesses; all three were different types of manufacturers, from aluminum molding to cardboard box design and production. Batavia has a diverse manufacturing section, with many open jobs.
Our next step was to tour Fox Valley Career Center, housed on the campus of Kaneland High School, and home to Batavia High School students who are looking to explore careers they may pursue in the future. It also can earn them college credits toward four-year college, community college, or trade school. FVCC teaches 15 programs, including Automotive, Cosmetology, Fire Science and Welding, to name a few. The campus was impressive and well-organized. But do their programs align with what is needed to prepare a student to be employed with one of our local industrial companies? That is yet to be determined.
What is the next step? Maybe a partnership between the Batavia Chamber and the Batavia School District to present a job fair. We would bring interested students and employers together to share what is needed and what is available.
For now, we are taking a baby step. We are going to align the cardboard box company with the seventh-grade Design and Modeling class to help them design packages for their “Pringles Challenge.” Students have to design packaging to mail a single Pringle chip without it being broken. While working on this real-life scenario for the packaging company, students will learn a bit more about a local manufacturing company and see that they have cool jobs available that they may want to do in the future.
The Batavia Chamber of Commerce is in business for your business. For information on this and other community projects, call the Batavia Chamber of Commerce at 630-879-7134 or visit www.BataviaChamber.org.