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Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships: Finding the Best Partner For Your School

Jun 21, 2008
The value of forming a structured and productive school-business partnership cannot be over-stated. Selecting your first business partner is the most important step in the beginning of this process. Other partnerships can spin-off of the first if this selection is made carefully. The right match pays big dividends and the partnership will continue to grow and become stronger.

Normally, personnel from the school select a partner from the business community. This certainly does not preclude a business from contacting a school, but educators usually make the first move. When a business makes the initial contact it is often because the school has already established a successful partnership with another company and the new business becomes aware of the mutual benefits of this program. Construct your first partnership well and others will follow.

To launch your partnership successfully and choose the best potential partner for your school, address the following guidelines: Location, Number of employees, Type of business or agency represented. Let's take a detailed look at each of these guidelines.

Location: Preferably the business you identify as a potential partner will be located relatively close to the school. It is not necessary for it to be located within the school's attendance boundaries. There are other exceptions to this local proximity rule. Some large companies may have their corporate offices located several miles away, even out of town. Company policy may require this office to be the designated partner. Additionally, some schools are located in areas that lack business and industry. Don't let distance become a barrier. There are many successful partnerships described in the book Facing the Future Together that are far apart yet very productive. If the business or industry you seek as a partner meets the other two guidelines, go for the partnership!

Number of Employees: Available support is an important consideration when you are selecting your first potential partner. A business or agency with a relatively large number of employees may provide more human resources to support your partnership. Time is a valuable commodity in the business world. A large business with a greater number of employees is likely to spend more time and be more involved in your educational programs. However, there are also exceptions to this rule. Never exclude a small business from your list if the management and employees show a strong commitment to partnership as the following true example illustrates.

Linda's Hair Styling Salon was basically a two-person operation but Linda provided tremendous volunteer support for a school in her area. She served on planning teams, the site council, and was a strong force in dropout prevention through her work as a mentor for students. Linda became a cheerleader for school-business partnership and helped to recruit additional business support.

Type of business or agency represented: Your selection of a potential partner must include the kind of service represented. Ask yourself the question - "What do I hope to accomplish through this partnership?" For example, if your goal is to expose your students to crime prevention ideas, then a variety of law enforcement agencies (FBI, Highway Patrol, Police, Sheriff's Department) could make up your partnership. Some law enforcement agencies have already established a relationship with schools. That's great!

By forming an official partnership you will diversify and strengthen this relationship. Or your goal may be to communicate the benefits of higher education to your students. Form a partnership with a public or private college, university, or technical training institution. Establish a partnership with a specific department within these institutions (Life Science, Math, English, Agriculture). These institutions may already visit your school but resources and benefits for your students will grow by formalizing the relationship.

There is no limit to the number of businesses, organizations and agencies that will make great partners. As you identify a potential partner and your plan develops your decision may change. Use the information provided in Facing the Future Together to help you make the best decision and guide you through the partnership process using key strategies described in the Twelve Commandments for forming successful school-business partnerships.
About the Author
Jim Leatherwood is the author of Facing the Future Together: Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships. Website: Successful School Business; E-mail: thebrookepress@aol.com.
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