5 Ways To Wow And Win Industry Partners

March 25, 2024

Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning. 

Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning. 

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Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning. 

Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning. 

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Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning. 

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Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning. 

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Industry partnerships can be transformative for college and career readiness programs, especially in high schools. A wide and diverse set of industry partnerships expands the number of students who are able to get hands-on learning, network, build skills, and deeply explore a variety of career plans and goals. And, these partnerships often yield incredible benefits for the businesses themselves–further connecting them with the community and often fueling workforce development efforts in their particular fields. But many businesses do not realize that partnering with a local school is possible or what forms that partnership might take. 

In order to make connections, build relationships, and foster deeper collaboration with potential and existing industry partners, schools and districts must be creative, intentional, and strategic. Here are 5 tips for establishing a rich and productive industry partner program: 

Identify possible early adopters.

Taking time to evaluate which industry partners could serve as leaders for the broader community is pivotal to forming a successful industry partnership network. Career and Technical Education (CTE) directors, career counselors, and administrators might work to identify business leaders that have pre-existing relationships with the school or those in fields that align to the school’s specialized coursework or programming. It can also be advantageous to start with businesses and organizations that are close to the school geographically–both for logistics and for the shared connection to the immediate neighborhood or community. Getting a few early adopters on board and focusing on building and refining processes can provide powerful models for other businesses as well as important feedback channels to the school. 

Understand and articulate the benefits of industry partnerships.

Strong partnerships between schools and area businesses have innumerable benefits for all involved. For students, the hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn are unmatched and allow for engagement, motivation, career exploration, and skill-building well beyond what is often possible in a classroom. For employers, industry partnerships provide an opportunity to grow leadership skills among employees while building a pipeline of skilled, trained, and dedicated workers. And, these partnerships often build loyalty from the school community and families who are grateful for the contributions to student learning. In short, these partnerships enrich connections and relationships within the community, and build a true team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure a bright future for students, families, and local commerce. It is critical for counselors and administrators to communicate this broader understanding to potential partners and the community well beyond the logistics of the partnerships. Doing so creates a shared understanding and incentivizes participation for all stakeholders. 

Approach the conversation as a sales pitch.

When schools reach out to businesses about becoming industry partners, they often highlight the incredible benefits to students while asking the business for specific types of support in teaching students and mentoring. While this approach might work for some, beginning the dialogue sharing the value of the partnership for the local business is often more productive; when businesses understand the value of the relationship for them, they are more likely to consider investing time and resources. 

Counselors and administrators should be ready to market this opportunity as they set up meetings with potential partners. Those pitching the idea should spend time learning about the specific business, trends in the industry, and current openings and needs. They should also consider what knowledge and skills their students can bring to the experience. They might start their pitch with a solution to a known problem–such as the need for additional staff to work outside of traditional hours or having tech-savvy individuals to expand social media avenues for marketing. Pitches might also highlight competitors or other local businesses successfully utilizing industry partners. 

Know who to talk with, and when to talk with them. 

When talking with potential industry partners, it is important to identify the decision makers and ensure that they are involved in early conversations. Getting in touch with those who are able to commit to a partnership can be challenging, and the relationships–and trust–can take time to build. Fostering these professional connections, however, is integral to industry partnership development and the right leaders can help to create pathways for students for years to come. Beyond knowing whom to connect with, it is also important to consider the right timing and method of communication. Business calendars operate on different schedules than that of a school, and busy seasons do not often provide adequate time for new ideas or new opportunities. Counselors should consider the best time to connect with potential partners, and plan their outreach accordingly. To reach more potential partners in an efficient way, counselors and administrators might ask for time to present to chambers of commerce or other local business organizations and groups about the interest in business partners and the benefits for all involved. CTE educators might craft a calendar of events where they can reach out to potential partners, dates for emails or social media communication, and a system that prompts reminders for personalized follow-up. Being strategic about this approach can significantly increase the reach of industry partnership programs. 

Celebrate broadly and widely. 

One of the very best ways to secure and retain industry partners is to regularly recognize and spotlight the successes that come from the partnership. Doing this in a public way can benefit the school, district, business partner, and broader community as it generates shared gratitude, publicity for the businesses, and enthusiasm and interest in the programs themselves. And, regularly sharing about the learning that is happening and the types of programs created through industry partnerships helps other businesses to see themselves as potential partners and can create new channels for additional relationships and collaborations. 

As part of these efforts, district leaders, CTE educators, and counselors might visit students on the job and share pictures of partnerships in action; student or community newspapers might highlight local partnerships and the skills students are building; or schools and districts might share spotlights on social media. Doing this work nurtures industry partnership programs and builds momentum for a CCR culture that prioritizes high-quality career exploration and learning.