There is a well-known saying: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” This quote is often attributed to former Harvard President Derek Bok, as well as to Eppie Lederer, who wrote under the pseudonym Ann Landers. While both used this phrase to reflect on the value and impact of attaining any and all education possible, I find my mind being drawn to another common saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
We see a great deal of hit-and-miss activity in the ongoing challenge of education, especially in the realm of paying for college. For example, this past spring, the Arizona Board of Regents announced increased tuition across all state universities, and yet Arizona still remains one of the only states in the country without a tuition assistance program for students, making it harder for the universities to provide financial aid and be accessible to all residents. Similarly, many scholarship programs face stagnant or decreasing donor support making it difficult to meet the ever-growing student need.
This is where businesses come in—certainly corporations that may have budgets to provide large donations or formal career-prep programs, but also the small business owners that may be more nimble to offer a variety of creative solutions. Perhaps more flexible work schedules for students; possibly internships that include a small but steady stipend; maybe more exposure to transferable management experience due to smaller work teams and that “chief cook to bottle washer” entrepreneurial setup.
There are many ways our small businesses can help support students and contribute to a more educated workforce. We find that often the smaller enterprises are not brought into the fold and, likewise, college students (or the institutions they attend) may not know how to best reach the businesses. Furthermore, believe it or not, there are many organizations with plenty of funding that cannot seem to get enough students to apply, leaving large amounts of money on the table every semester!
Enter the business groups, such as chambers and industry associations. These member organizations can and do play a vital role in bridging these gaps by providing mechanisms and events for networking and exchanging ideas. Mixers are usually open to the general public (including college students); informational sessions and training workshops frequently allow members to bring colleagues and guests; and signature events often include keynote speakers and panel forums discussing best practices, industry trends, employment opportunities and other innovative ideas.
While “you don’t know what you don’t know” rings true, there are certainly ways to find out more. Whether you are a current small business owner, a budding entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a rising student or a parent, you should get involved. Come find out what your local and regional business organizations have to offer. You may meet someone or learn something that could change your life for the better. And in the meantime, you just might also help someone else along the way.
Find out more about our programs and events at www.tucsonhispanicchamber.org and please join us at the annual Southern Arizona Hispanic Market Outlook (HMO) luncheon, Sept. 13 at the Hilton El Conquistador. For more details, visit tucsonhispanicchamber.org/events.html.
Lydia Aranda works closely with corporate and nonprofit leaders to build economic and educational solutions for our communities, and develops corporate relations strategies for the Tucson Hispanic Chamber and its Southern Arizona affiliates. She can be reached at Lydia@TucsonHispanicChamber.org