How businesspeople can prepare students for college, career

N.H. Scholars program seeks business leaders to open minds to career possibilities that exist right here in New Hampshire

For all New Hampshire has to offer, there is an alarming trend facing New Hampshire businesses, large and small.

Not enough young people are challenging themselves in high school with more rigorous curricula. Consequently, not enough young people are adequately prepared for college or career. And that means businesses struggle to find young workers with the right skill sets to replace their increasingly aging workforce. The long-term implications of this trend are not good.

New Hampshire’s economy is driven in large measure by advanced manufacturing and high-technology companies. If these businesses can’t find the right talent in New Hampshire, they’ll find it elsewhere and grow there. Worst case, they’ll pack up entirely and take their jobs with them.

Fortunately, there are efforts underway in K-12 and post-secondary education to help young people prepare for the challenges of college or career. One such program is New Hampshire Scholars.

Since 2007, nearly 11,000 high school students have graduated as New Hampshire Scholars. This free program encourages students to pursue the most rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses in school. This helps ensure they graduate with a better foundation of skills.

New Hampshire Scholars uses existing high school courses, with no added expense to the public. More than 90 percent of New Hampshire Scholars go immediately to two-year or four-year colleges. Importantly, graduates who follow the more challenging STEM-centered path through school earn roughly 13 percent more in salary than those who take the path of less resistance.

More than 400 business partners work with schools and students throughout New Hampshire to offer everything from unique, close-up looks at jobs and career tracks to more hands-on, job-site internships. The relationships built from these partnerships mean our state has a better chance of retaining our best and brightest for careers right here in the Granite State.

New Hampshire Scholars has grown from a handful of schools participating in 2007 to 71 (of 83) high schools today. This spring, thousands of students will receive their New Hampshire Scholars diplomas before heading off to college or careers.

As successful as this program has been, additional help is needed from business leaders. Business owners, managers and executives not already participating in New Hampshire Scholars should commit themselves or their companies, or both, to the program. All it takes is a phone call.

The New Hampshire Scholars program is looking for business leaders willing to go into classrooms and discuss their own careers with students, to offer an in-depth look at what your world in business is really like day-to-day. Through your involvement, the program will open even more minds to career possibilities that exist right outside the classroom door, right here in New Hampshire.

Reach out to the school superintendent in your community and volunteer, or to Scott Powers, New Hampshire Scholars’ director, at 603-225-4199 ext. 300. I can think of few better investments of your time than helping advance the careers of young people.

Jim Roche is president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion