A Commitment to Irvine’s Future Workforce: Today’s Students

Monday, April 15, 2019

Main News Photo

By Bryan Starr, President and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber

As Published in the Orange County Register | Irvine World News: April 11, 2019

As most residents already know, Irvine is home to award-winning K-12 schools and nationally-ranked colleges and universities such as University of California, Irvine. What may not be as widely recognized is that the Greater Irvine Chamber is committed to sustaining a highly-skilled workforce that meets the needs of Irvine’s employers by providing a range of opportunities for students to learn, discover, and grow. The Chamber offers career-readiness programs in collaboration with community partners and facilitated by Chamber member volunteers.

News clipping with photo of Bryan Starr, president & CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber; photo of Orange County high school students in front of the Google Irvine headquarters.

Three years ago, the Chamber partnered with Irvine Valley College to develop Career Edge, a simple but important solution to a challenge that Orange County companies face: new employees who arrive with the knowledge and technical skills necessary but lack satisfactory business writing, presentation, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills. A partnership that now includes Google and Webster University, Irvine Metro Campus (WUI), Career Edge is offered to students enrolled at colleges and universities throughout Orange County and is facilitated by accredited subject-matter experts and volunteer mentors and presenters from a variety of professions. To date, more than 300 students have gone through the soft-skills program.

Over the last eight years, the Chamber has partnered with Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) to provide more than 2,000 students from several Irvine middle schools the opportunity to learn the value of financial investments through its Financial Forum program. Financial experts from such companies as The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Merryl Lynch, and Modern Woodman of America have helped familiarize students with basic financial literacy including money management and budgeting, and investment concepts such as compound versus simple interest and diversification, as well as the importance of researching companies during the investment selection process and monitoring investments daily to understand ongoing stock performance.Another Chamber program, Irvine Career Discovery Day, is a collaboration with Irvine Public Schools Foundation, United Way, and Vital Link, three non-profit organizations dedicated to preparing students for their future careers through experiential learning opportunities. Since it was launched two years ago, Irvine Career Discovery Day has provided 500 Orange County high school students with unprecedented access into such highly-regarded Irvine companies as Applied Medical, Blizzard, Cox Automotive, Edwards Lifesciences, EON Reality, Google, Parker Aerospace, and Vincit. The goal is to inspire students to explore 21st-century career opportunities.

Through the Chamber’s Ethics Forum program, a partnership with IUSD and WUI, students are introduced to the process of ethical decision making. Students learn why critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creative problem solving are critical to ensure successful situational outcomes. As the final piece of the semester-long program conducted in the classroom, presentations on responses to ethical dilemmas are made by the students to parents and community and business leaders at the Chamber office.

In 2018, the Greater Irvine Chamber entered a partnership with the Irvine Public Schools Foundation to raise awareness and funds to secure a 21st-century-ready workforce through quality education in Irvine.  Contributions made through the Chamber help fund innovative programs such as the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program. With support of Orange County-based companies including FivePoint, Microsemi, Ingersoll Rand/Trane, Cisco, and Resilient, the program recently offered teams from six local high schools the opportunity to assemble, test, and launch a miniature satellite, called a CubeSat, into space with guidance from mentors from industry-leading organizations like NASA JPL, Tyvak, and the Ecuadorian Space Agency.

Programs such as the Irvine CubeSat are shining examples of the dedication and collective effort that has enabled Irvine schools and their students to excel, setting the bar for educational innovation in Irvine as we move into the future.

I encourage families with school-age children to take advantage of workforce readiness programs the Chamber offers to students. Participation is free, but the experience gained is invaluable to student success as they prepare for and embark on their careers. Individuals representing a well-prepared workforce will one day be key contributors to the economic vitality of greater Irvine.

For information about Greater Irvine Chamber workforce readiness programs and how students can participate, call (949) 502-4129.

Category: Chamber News, Workforce Development, Economic Development