Local teens got the chance Tuesday to meet potential future employers at the B.E. C.O.O.L program sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board and Chambers of Commerce countywide at the 83-year-old Hill-Carrillo Adobe.
It was the third and final Business Education Collaboration Offering Opportunities for Leadership event where students received advice from the CEOs of Santa Barbara businesses.
“It was interesting meeting new people who opened my eyes to new experiences,” said Brandon Martinez, a seventh-grader at St. Raphael School,160 Saint Josephs St. in Santa Barbara. “It opened my eyes about what I want to do.”
Chamber business members hosted “conversation stations” where students could talk with local business people about career development, job opportunities and skills needed to accomplish their goals.
George Tamas, CEO of computer software company Governet — the first Web-based system to list and organize approved courses for various colleges and universities throughout the world — said one student approached him who had to support his family by working full time. He asked Tamas how he can get ahead and not get stuck in a low-paying job.
“They’re focused and ambitious about creating a better life,” Tamas said. “He knew he was in tough circumstances and wanted specific advice of how to get out. We can offer practical guidance about what to do.”
The initial premise of the event was that many students might never have the opportunity to meet successful people in the community and don’t get the exposure to various careers.
“I want them to realize what common traits they see in successful people they talk to,” Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman said, adding that the event is as good for the adults as it is for the students.
“It’s as good for adults as for the kids because we have senior executives who have had their children and grandchildren grow up and don’t have contact with teens,” Cushman said. “They tend to have a negative opinion of high school kids, but when they get to meet them it’s the real world. Everyone who I’ve talked to have said, ‘I didn’t have any idea these kids were so smart.’”
The first two events, held in April and May, drew more than 150 students and more than 50 businesses were represented. Although Tuesday’s event wasn’t as well-attended, Cushman said he hopes students will land more summer jobs next year and will reschedule the series in three consecutive months.
“It’s not often you can sit with 25 CEOs of companies who can tell you what it takes to succeed,” Tamas said. “Our advice is real and specific.”
Martinez took the advice to heart.
“I learned you have to work hard to get what you want — the hard work pays off,” he said. “I liked learning about new things and people sharing their history of how they came up. I learned how to prepare for the future.”