Lustre-Cal visiting Lodi Unified School District classrooms to tell industrial arts high school students where some of the signs the company has manufactured have ended up.
Lodi firefighters in full uniform speaking to a group of second-graders about how communication is important in their job to save lives.
A Lodi Memorial Hospital nurse distributing anti-bacterial gel to middle-schoolers and talking about how math and science play into her daily job.
These are among the scenarios the Lodi Chamber of Commerce would like to see in local schools through a new Partnership in Education with Lodi schools. Some are already happening.
The Lodi Chamber of Commerce found that recent high school graduates applying for local jobs are not prepared to enter the work force. Many have illegible handwriting, and their spelling and grammar is not up to par, according to chamber president Pat Patrick.
"I listened to this and listened to this, and came up with Partners in Education," he said, adding that many new job applicants also struggled with math basics such as fractions.
"Is this the fault of the schools? No. They haven't failed us, but they can do better," he said.
Carol Farron, Lodi Memorial Hospital spokeswoman and chamber board member, is among those concerned about future employees.
As one of the city's largest employers with 1,400 workers, she said the hospital is seeing more and more new young applicants coming out of Lodi Unified unprepared.
"It's their work ethic, too," she said. "Many do not know how to behave in a professional setting."
Farron says PIE can help.
The Chamber of Commerce has always had an education subcommittee with members who meet regularly, but it wasn't until it teamed up with the Lodi Unified for a possible partnership that the group received a new focus.
Patrick says that by putting local businessmen and women into classrooms, students can get excited about careers they may never have thought about.
These mentors can also educate students about specific school subjects that might aid them in post-high school careers.
Lodi Unified Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer agrees the program has the potential of meeting many of the district's needs, some of them unfunded.
"It was formed to help meet a goal of the Lodi Chamber — to maintain a solid work force for the community — and to help meet the goals of Lodi Unified School District: To ensure that all students graduate high school and are prepared for a successful future," she said in an email.
"There are several layers to PIE but all working for the same purpose, to positively influence students so that they can be successful in school and in the work place," she said.
Patrick also took his idea to the local Christian schools to see if they would be interested in partnering with local businesses.
PIE participants can make presentations about specific industries, job shadow or help teach Junior Achievement curriculum. Similar to the board game "Life," it leads students of all ages through real situations such as unanticipated expenses like braces for a child or a windfall income tax return.
In his personal life, Patrick already tells his two teenage daughters that there are probably three big decisions they will make before age 25. Among them are what they want to be when they grow up and how they are going to achieve that.
Nichols-Washer said an adult sharing information on a particular career either in the classroom or at the work site is valuable. "This is very important to students of all ages, as it can let them know what is out there for them and can motivate them to stay in school and work towards a goal," she said.
Service organizations are also on board with PIE. The three local Rotary clubs are already involved, and Patrick said the Kiwanis are interested.
Last month, Wells Fargo donated $2,000 for start-up costs such as fingerprinting classroom volunteers.
The chamber also hopes it can help with funding cuts to district programs such as industrial arts, where the focus has shifted away from metal fabrication and woodworking, according to Patrick. He says not all students are cut out for college, but may be unaware of industry jobs available in Lodi.
"Our ag and other industries are crying out for electrical workers and an understanding of engineering," he said.
Farron agrees that it is important local students hear from the business community. "Whether they stay in Lodi or not, they need to know what to expect in today's workforce," she said.
Lodi-Tokay Rotary Club member Ron Williamson, who also sits on the PIE committee, said it's going to take a total effort by the chamber, all local businesses, the school district and service organizations to be successful.
"The more of the business community we get involved, the better. We need them to step up and be more involved," he said.
In the end, though, Nichols-Washer said PIE is much more than filling a budget gap.
"This program connects adults to kids, (and) this connection can make a difference, or it can be the difference, in a child's life," she said.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.