10 Easy Ways to Get Your Employer and Community Partners Involved and Enthused

This is an encore post from December 2016.

If you’re thinking about school-related goals for the new school year, you might be thinking, “Wow.  We really need to get better at connecting employer and other community volunteers to our pathways, CTE or STEM programs.”  Did you know there are actually 5 key strategies and almost 20 specific activities in which employers and community partners can be connected to your program?   Why do think you need to be clearer in communicating about these strategies?

Think about the last time someone invited you to do something with him or her?  Did they frame the question like, “Hey, what are you doing Friday night?”  Even coming from people I really like, I don’t like this question because all it does is raise uncertainty.  I may have modest plans for Friday night, but I really would rather know what you have in mind so I can decide if I want to change my plans.  This vague question encourages me to keep my cards close to the vest.

How you frame the question is especially important if you’re asking an acquaintance or someone you don’t know very well.  A specific invitation is much better.  For example, “Hey, I know that the Columbia Chorale is performing Handel’s Messiah on Friday night.  Would you like to go with me?”

Take this idea and apply it to that employer you’re trying to get involved in your program.  Are you going to throw out a really general invitation like, “would you like to help out our program?”  For a heavily committed businessperson, that’s really vague and it just raises lots of other questions.  For example, “ What time of day of the week will I have to volunteer?” How much time is this going to take? Are they going to ask me for money? Will this commitment go on and on for months and years?”

Instead, you should give them a specific invitation.  A good starting place is, “Can I invite you to come by our school next Wednesday morning and take a short tour of our program?  You’ll get to meet with a couple teachers and a few students.  It’ll take about 30 minutes.”  If that tour goes well, you can say, “we have a number of partnership opportunities, and they range from one-time, low-risk activities to more on-going activities and involvement.  Here’s a list of all the kind of opportunities we have in our programs.”

To help you start to provide more clarity about partnership opportunities, here are the five key strategies I’ve identified for getting employer and community partners involved.

  1. Help Students Build Career Understanding
  2. Facilitate Classroom Presentations and/or Lead Small Group Student Discussions
  3. Assist Students with Career and/or Leadership Projects
  4. Offer Experiences Outside of School
  5. Support Program Improvement and Advancement

In future blogs, I’ll explain the 19 activities that fall within these five strategies.  Then you can start to adapt and flesh them out, creating a partnership job bank for your school or program.

If you start to get more specific and clear about how employers can connect with your programs and schools, you’ll find it’s much easier to get them involved.  Once they experience the good feeling of making a difference in a student’s life, you’ll not only have a committed volunteer, you’ll have an advocate and an ambassador for your program!


Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com).  NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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