On Tuesday, October 30, the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Ferndale School District to host their first-ever Lunch with Leaders event. This is one of the elements of a new program called “Ferndale Futures,” a collaborative effort to connect students with local businesses to increase career opportunities for a brighter future. The program is aimed at getting high school students involved and interested in different professions, with the end goal of helping graduates find a pathway to their future. This event gives students an outlet to learn new and different ways to make a living. Each student leaves the luncheon with a new connection and an opportunity for a job shadow.

Lunch with Leaders was created to help kids find career paths. Photo courtesy: Kenneth Clarkson.

Lunch with Leaders was held at the Pioneer Pavilion, where the Chamber is housed, and lasted for about an hour. Leaders from companies within the Ferndale community attended to provide answers to high school student’s questions, and insight into how their professions function. This event’s featured companies were Gary’s Plumbing, Lynden Door, Gitts Auto Body and Les Schwab Tire Center.

The event began with a lunch, provided by the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce and Phillips 66. The 25 attending students were then broken up into groups of four, which rotated between the leaders’ tables. After 10 minutes at each table, Ferndale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ann Serwold rang a bell notifying students it was time to venture to the next table.

“This event is all about the kids,” Serwold said. “These kids are the future business leaders of our community. They are going to become business owners, employees and leaders. The more they know, the better equipped they are to succeed, the stronger they will become.”

Inspired by what the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce has been doing with their school district, Superintendent, Dr. Linda Quinn reached out to Serwold to see how the two entities might collaborate, and Ferndale Futures was conceived.

Students from Ferndale High School were invited to Lunch with Leaders, hosted at the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy: Kenneth Clarkson.

Though this luncheon focused on the trades, Ferndale Futures plans on hosting three more luncheons this school year to offer additional opportunities for students to gain more knowledge about viable career paths.

Participating students were engaged in the discussions and conversation flowed at each station. The leaders were happy to answer questions, and the students had plenty to ask. Many students already had prior knowledge of some of the topics, which made for a more robust and beneficial session.

“I’m a huge car enthusiast so, for me, getting to learn more about Gitts Auto Body was awesome,” said Ferndale High School Student Colyn Broglie. “But what I didn’t expect was to be super interested in Gary’s Plumbing. I found out plumbing isn’t the stereotypical work you think it is. You are really helping people in many ways.”

After the sessions finished, students wrote down three companies they could imagine shadowing for. Broglie’s three choices were Gary’s Plumbing, Les Schwab Tire Center and Gitts Auto Body.

Ferndale Chamber of Commerce Program Director Anya Milton said moments such as this are what it’s all about. She wants students to find out more about all kinds of careers so they have more options for the future.

Leaders from the Ferndale community spoke to students about their professions. Photo courtesy: Kenneth Clarkson.

“We want to equip these students with the tools they need to be successful and competitive in both local and global business markets in the future,” Milton said. “Ferndale is very proud of all the jobs we have in our community and we want the students to know about them.”

As the event comes to a close, it’s apparent it has been just as successful for the leaders as it has for the students. Each gained new perspectives and, potentially, a new handful of students eager to shadow their company.

“Our team is excited to support students throughout our community, to gain insight into meaningful jobs with our fast-growing workforce that can become careers for them to live and work in our county,” said Andrew Aldrich, recruiting manager for Lynden Door.

In addition to the students and leaders who attended the event, plenty of Ferndale High School staff were on hand, including Edwin Elefson, director of career and technical education at the school.

“We noticed a need not only for our students, but in the community,” Elefson said. “Everybody is looking for workers right now, and we have a lot of students interested in doing these types of jobs for a living. It is great to work with the Chamber of Commerce to put this event together.”

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