WBA announces $50,000 contribution to Youth Engagement Initiative

April 19th, 2018

Whatcom Business Alliance Announces $50,000 Commitment to Phase Two of the Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI) 

Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA) Board Chairman Doug Thomas, President Tony Larson, and education committee co-chairs Laura McKinney, NW Government Affairs and Public Relations Director for Alcoa and Tom Kenney, recently retired Regional President for Washington Federal, announced phase two of the Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI), the WBA’s major youth outreach effort. Over 60 business leaders, school district representatives, career & technical education experts and government representatives were in attendance. The event also included the announcement of YEI Interim Director Lin Nelson and $50,000 in initial YEI seed funding from the WBA.

McKinney and Kenney presented a strategic plan with goals and metrics for the YEI that will “build a bridge” between Whatcom businesses, educators, students and parents.  The YEI will work “in partnership with employers, educators and like-minded organizations to create synergies that advance youth employment and career opportunities in Whatcom County.” The initiative aims to be an information hub for career paths, available jobs, internships, job shadow opportunities and training programs.

“The WBA board of directors identified a need to improve communication between businesses, educators, students and their families,” said McKinney.  “We are reaching out to our young people to help them understand the value of business in a vibrant economy, to inform them of career opportunities right here in Whatcom County and to help them navigate the pathways toward good careers and family wage jobs.”

Phase 1 of the YEI led to the February 2018 kick off event with over 300 high school students at Bellingham Technical College (BTC).  Students heard from local business leaders and entrepreneurs about the skills and experience that got them to where they are today: persistence, curiosity, tenacity, and sheer force of will. They encouraged students to find their motivation and to be excited for the life they can create for themselves. The YEI is connecting Whatcom County students with the Junior Achievement Job Shadow curriculum to help get them thinking about possible careers and includes an onsite visit to local businesses for some real world context.

Lin Nelson, former BTC Manager of Community Education and Special Projects, said, “We are doing something unique in Washington that will help our community prosper.  We are filling a gap by starting a business led effort to help our economy and young people grow.”

For more information on the Initiative and opportunities for collaboration, visit https://www.whatcombusinessalliance.com/youthengagement/ or contact Lin Nelson (lin@whatcombusinessalliance.com)  or Maggie Stafford (maggie@whatcombusinessalliance.com).