Pasadena Chamber Of Commerce Will Launch New Foundation That Gives High Schoolers Valuable Work Experience

Published : Wednesday, June 14, 2017 | 9:09 PM

Ishmael Trone is Chairman of the Board of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce

The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce will soon launch a new Foundation that invests in the future of Pasadena’s high school students by giving them real world work experiences in a variety of industries before they graduate as seniors.

This unique work-based program has been around for two years now thanks to a partnership between the Pasadena Unified School District, a local nonprofit called Ideal Youth and the Chamber of Commerce, which works to give nearly 100 students each summer the opportunity to start building a professional portfolio through the guidance of local Pasadena companies.

The Foundation, which is currently in the final stage of approval, will aim to ensure long term funding to help the program grow and serve more students than it is currently able to help in kickstarting careers.

“For the Chamber to continue its service with youth in the City of Pasadena, we created the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce Foundation, where we can receive donations and contributions from businesses, companies and individuals to keep these opportunities going for the students,” said Pasadena Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Ishmael Trone.

“We have direct contact with companies who can open their doors and let young people into their businesses and get hands on experience,” Trone said. “We’ve been extremely successful with that over the past two years.”

Two years ago the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce received a grant in partnership with the Pasadena Unified School District to help in providing internship opportunities for high school juniors.

The grant has enabled the program to land over 100 students each summer with hands on experience with local businesses in the Pasadena area, including job shadowing, internships and externships in careers of interest.

The funds are expected run out soon.

“What we want to be able to do is continue the efforts to provide support through work based learning activity for local students both Pasadena Unified School District and, if possible, expand to Pasadena City College,” explained Pasadena Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Little.

The program is a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce, Ideal Youth, Wells Fargo and the Boys and Girls Club.

According to Trone, the program received 300 applications from John Muir High School students this year alone.

“We had to turn lots of students down because of the lack of funding,” explained Trone.

Ideal Youth, a workforce readiness non-profit in Pasadena, is responsible for recruiting students and providing work development training and the Chamber of Commerce places the students to its member businesses.

“It’s a perfect marriage,” said Trone, who is also the Co-founder of Ideal Youth.

The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce has approximately 1,500 member businesses within its network.

“Our members really like it because they like to impart some experience on the students and they like having student in the office. It’s a nice way to give back to the community,” said Little.

Student intern on average between 75 to 100 hours every summer with both paid and unpaid internships.

The entire focus of the program is to prepare the young students for a competitive job market.

“We are all aware of how difficult it is for young people to get hired in today’s economy. A lot of them want a job and employers are asking them if they have any experience,” Trone explained. “So now they are asking, ‘if I don’t have any experience, how do I get a job?,” said Trone.

“This is a way to jumpstart their portfolio. This is a way to give them the experience and help building their resume in order for them to have the opportunity to get hired, especially locally,” explained Trone.

According to Trone, regular fundraising efforts take place throughout the year to pay out stipends to compensate the students for their time spent working.

“That’s one of the main reasons why we are creating this Foundation so we can go after additional funding out there to give these students stipends for the time they’re putting in to learn a skill, or have hands on experience in a field that they’re thinking about majoring in college and pursuing later in life,” said Trone.

The businesses sectors that offer internship opportunities in Pasadena through the program include engineering, arts and entertainment, business, hotel and hospitality, medical and more.

“It is a full array of careers that that these students coming out of our high schools are really passionate and interested in,” explained Trone.

The program is in effect on a year round basis and not just limited to summertime.

Additional support includes recruiting classroom guest speakers and providing externships for teachers within the school district.

“We want to give the teachers an opportunity where they can be immersed in a professional environment to see what’s happening in the real world and to then be able to inform their students in the classroom,” said Little.

Wells Fargo is another partner that provide financial literacy courses for the sixth grade class at Eliot Arts Magnet Academy middle school.

The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce Foundation is currently in the process of getting its application approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to make it official.

“We’re really trying to meet and develop the business community’s responsibility from meeting the educational workforce development and work-based learning opportunities for youth,” explained Trone.

For more information about the Chamber of Commerce, visit https://www.pasadena-chamber.org/.

To learn more about Ideal Youth, visit http://www.idealyouth.org/.

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