COSBE launches ‘Spark’ campaign with first workplace tour

The Council of Small Business Executives lit the fire under its “Be the Spark” campaign on Tuesday with the first of 25 school tours at businesses throughout the region.


COSBE, an initiative of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, announced its “Spark” campaign in June as an extension of its commitment to educating the next-generation workforce.

One of the most critical elements of the “Spark” program is a series of tours that COSBE members will conduct at their workplaces for seventh graders enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools. The tours will unravel throughout the 2014-15 school year and will usher about 650 students from 25 MPS schools into the work sites of COSBE members across a range of industries.

During Tuesday’s kick-off tour, more than two dozen students from MPS’ Victory K-8 School took a fieldtrip to General Mitchell International Airport for an inside look at Southwest Airlines’ business operations and career pathways.

Students had a chance to interact with airline personnel, including customer service representatives and mechanics, to learn about the gamut of positions that the company relies on to facilitate a successful operation.

“Having seventh graders tour our operations is what opens their eyes and minds to a career in aviation,” said Ana Schwager, Southwest Airlines community affairs and grassroots regional leader. “There are so many different career fields within an airline that it’s important to showcase what they are, how they work, and why they’re so important to running a smooth operation.”

Through each COSBE tour, students will be able to learn about the kind of positions that factor into a business, the skillsets needed to fill those positions, and how their classroom work aligns with those skills, according to Jeff Clark, Waukesha Metal Products president and chief executive officer and chair of COSBE’s education committee.
The tours are an important step in dialing the business community directly into the school system to help fill the talent pipeline long term, Clark said.

“My passion is about tying our education system to the real world career opportunities that are going to be out there for our kids, and really for me it is filling that pipeline of talented potential or prospective employees for the region, for the city, for the state and for the country,” he said.

As part of its contribution to the “Spark” program, Southwest Airlines donated a $5,000 grant to COSBE’s Education Fund, a pool of dollars the organization will allocate to education initiatives with missions that parallel the MMAC’s Blueprint goals.

The “Spark” campaign’s tours will continue in October. Participating businesses include: Advanced Waste Services, Inc.; Busch Precision, Inc.; Clearwing Productions, Inc.; DCI Marketing Group; Derse, Inc.; Diamond Discs International; Eppstein Uhen Architects, Inc.; First Edge Solutions, Inc.; GenMet; HellermannTyton Corporation; Heritage Printing; HGA Architects and Engineers; House of Harley-Davidson, Inc.; Korb Tredo Architects; Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club; Milwaukee Bucks; Milwaukee Composites, Inc.; Mortara Instrument, Inc.; Poblocki Sign Company LLC; Southwest Airlines Co.; Super Steel LLC; Veolia Water Milwaukee LLC; Weyco Group, Inc.; and Wixon, Inc.

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