Prosper Waco: The state of education and building our local workforce
By Tristen Coffee
As a current intern at Prosper Waco, I can speak to the power of internships. The opportunity to get hands-on experience in a field that interests you is valuable for personal and professional development, and also helps when it comes to getting hired for that first job. A job candidate with pertinent internship experience automatically has at least a little bit of an advantage during a job interview compared to someone with no experience at all.
One of the community goals that the Prosper Waco initiative was created to support is to Increase youth employment. One strategy for making progress on that goal is to help young people get job experience through high school internships.
The Prosper Waco backbone organization and Waco ISD have worked together since 2016 to build and grow a summer internship program that pairs rising seniors with local employers to create paid internships in an industry relevant to each student’s specific career academy. This program has proven to be beneficial to students and employers alike, and will continue to develop as students from other McLennan County school districts start to participate. (To learn more about summer internships and the other education-related initiatives that Prosper Waco is helping to support, visit this webpage: https://prosperwaco.org/the-work/initiatives-and-projects/.)
Student internships are great opportunities for the individual students who participate, and they are also a part of a larger strategy of talent development for our region.
On Wednesday, November 7, Prosper Waco, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and the Heart of Texas P-20 Regional Council are hosting a luncheon to share information about the current state of public education in Texas. Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath will give an update on the progress that has been made and the challenges we still face in regard to public education today. Local experts will provide regional data on student achievement as well as information about how area schools are working to solve problems and prepare their students for the future.
In addition to the keynote speaker, the luncheon will feature a panel of superintendents: Dr. Marcus Nelson of Waco ISD, Dr. George Kazanas of Midway ISD and Dr. Sharon Shields of La Vega ISD. Dr. Phil Rhodes will also present local workforce pipeline data, encompassing college and career readiness. This will give the community a good chance to get an insider look at how our local school districts are working to make sure young people growing up in the greater Waco area can provide the workforce we need for the coming decades.
The opportunities for businesses to work with schools in a mutually-beneficial manner will be a major theme of the event. This could look like businesses providing internships or job-shadowing opportunities, providing mentors for students, taking part in Advisory Boards, etc. The higher the quality education provided in the Waco area, the better our workforce will be down the road. Businesses typically have the resources, and high school students typically have the willingness to learn from practical experience. The collaboration between businesses and education is a win for everyone.
This event will be held at the Baylor Club (1001 S MLK Blvd). Doors open at 10:30 a.m. for networking and a “School Spotlight,” and the luncheon itself will kickoff at 11:30. This event will not only provide clarity on where we are with public education today, but will also spark conversations about how we can build a world-class workforce and ultimately strengthen our economy. On behalf of the P-20 Council, the Chamber and Prosper Waco, we hope to see you there!
Tristen Coffee is a senior Journalism/Public Relations major with a concentration in Marketing at Baylor University. She is currently the PR/Communications intern at Prosper Waco. Originally from Temple, TX right down I-35, Tristen has loved calling Waco home for the past going-on-four years and is excited (but not quite ready) to see where life takes her after graduation in May.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.