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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Tampa chamber kicks off education initiative

— For years, businesses have complained about the difficulty of finding well-trained interns ready to get some hands-on job experience. At the same time, universities have bemoaned the fact that they have trouble placing their talented students with local businesses.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce aims to turn that into a positive conversation with its new collaborative effort called Education Connection. The program pairs business professionals with the schools training their future employees.

Education Connection is a partnership between the chamber, Hillsborough County Schools and higher education institutions in the community, including the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, University of Tampa, Saint Leo University and Stetson College of Law.

The idea is to create work force talent that matches up with the skills needed for available jobs in the area.

It is also an opportunity for businesses to tap into that academic base and collaborate on research that can take a business to the next level, said Doug Pace, chief operating officer for Bayshore Solutions. His company is an interactive digital agency that creates websites and conducts digital marketing for companies like The Melting Pot and Carnival Cruise Lines.

Pace is chairing the project for the chamber.

“Students and professors get real life research projects and we get the benefit of that,” Pace said.

The initiative kicks off this morning at the University Club in downtown Tampa where Don Morton, a member of the Microsoft Business Solutions leadership team, will speak to local leaders and students.

“We are not going to reinvent the system, but maybe we can figure out a way to become a bridge, to get the best and brightest staying here. That was the idea behind it,” said Chamber President Bob Rohrlack. “We are formulating the best way to bring businesses and students together.”

By collaborating, backers believe, they can create opportunities for students to find local internships and eventually, employment. Employers would get in on designing curriculum to fit the needs in the local work place and could develop research partners to investigate and possibly resolve challenges their businesses face.

Education Connection will also host seminars on how best to set up internships, Rohrlack said.

“This will be an ongoing program at the chamber,” he said. “Businesses will be talking about what they need from students coming out of college. Teachers love it because they want to teach skills to get students hired right away. This program will strengthen the conversation.”

Wednesday’s kickoff will include, students, educators and business professionals, all sitting down to figure out how to make this work, Rohrlack said. For those that can’t make today’s gathering, but still want to get involved, they can contact the chamber directly at (813) 276-9492.

The discussion already includes businesses from a number of professions, including retail, banking, technology and medical services. “It’s a really good mix and that’s what we want,” Rohrlack said.

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