Giving a head start in business

Any opportunity to help the kids of our area become better prepared for the future is one that should be taken, as far as I’m concerned.

School districts are constantly looking at new arrangements, new methods and new programs to provide an education in line with the technology, types of business and demands students will meet once they graduate, whether they decide to get a job, go to a tech school or college, or even join the military.

But what about programs offered in the community?

For many years, the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce has offered its High School Business Symposium in April, which works to provide a glimpse to our area high school students into some of what they might expect, not just as adults but also as teenagers, when they enter the business world.

Now, of course, to be completely fair and open, I do chair the committee which puts on this event.

The point of my writing this is in the hopes others take time to learn about the High School Business Symposium and become interested in possibly participating.

The High School Business Symposium is available for any high school junior in the area. That’s right, they don’t have to be taking a business class. It doesn’t matter what plans the student may have for after school, the chamber simply wants students who will take it seriously and want to learn.

The High School Business Symposium is a full-day event with 120 students where they learn about budgeting, marketing, how to perform in a job interview and various other skills to aid them when looking for a job, in the office, or simply their everyday life.

For example, students will learn about the difficulties of making a budget, taking into account their takehome pay from their job, as well as needed expenses such as insurance, groceries, childcare and other variables.

They will be presented with various examples of a job interview, being shown good techniques and bad in the hopes of improving their chances of obtaining a job.

For years, students from our four West Virginia high schools – Oak Glen, Weir, Madonna and Brooke – had it to themselves. More recently, the chamber has opened it up to students from Steubenville, Indian Creek, Catholic Central and Burgettstown, providing students from our neighboring states to also learn.

Students at the High School Business Symposium are mixed together, making sure there is someone from each school in each work group. That way, not only do they learn to work with people from different schools and backgrounds – just like in the business world – they also, hopefully, build new friendships as they work together to accomplish their goals.

The chamber recruits local businessmen and women to work with the students each year, facilitating the work groups, discussing aspects of each lesson, and providing some guidance when needed.

There are also a few surprise tasks students will face. They are educational and fun, but since I don’t want to ruin the surprise for those who do participate this year, I won’t go into detail here.

I’ve had the opportunity to be an observer for years before becoming actively involved in planning the symposium.

Our local schools have always been cooperative about allowing the students selected to be out of class for the day, and, more importantly, the students have always seemed to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to get this glimpse into what might be expected of them in the future.

Sometimes it is simply easier to learn from those with first-hand knowledge of these fields, or just in a different setting.

I wish I had known of the program when I was in school. I’m really not sure how it was promoted at Brooke when I was a student, whether the school hand-picked certain students or I simply wasn’t paying attention.

But, after years of seeing kids go through the symposium, seeing those metaphorical lightbulbs click on as they begin to understand, I encourage all of our high schools to make sure their students know of the opportunity and for students to look into it if they are interested.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)