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Last updated: August 27. 2014 8:43AM - 196 Views
Tonia Stephenson Chamber Chat



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Happy “Back to School” week! Since I do not have children, this week is just another work week for me, but I know for so many of you, this is the week to go back to the hustle and bustle of getting the kids out of bed in time for everyone to get ready, eat breakfast and get out of the house and to school on time, while you try to make sure you get to your job on time as well. It takes a while to get back into the groove and make sure the timing works and no one is tardy for their appointed position in life, whether it is school or work.


Here at the Chamber of Commerce, one of our focus areas twelve months out of the year is education. We have an Education Committee that meets monthly to work with our educational programs at the chamber, as well as to serve as a bridge for information from the business community to our educational community. This committee is looking for new volunteers, so if you are interested, I hope you will consider joining our committee. We especially would love to have business representatives from our companies.


Throughout my time here in Scotland County, I have gotten the question, “Why does the Chamber of Commerce care so much about the education system, since we are the business organization?” I’ve even had the question, “What does education have to do with business?” I’ve politely answered these questions every time I have received them, but it still amazes me when I do. I thought I would take the time during our “Back to School” week to share with you why it is imperative for the business community to be involved with the education system.


First and foremost, our youth in 2014 are our employees of today and tomorrow. Many of our high school and college students have already dipped into the work world, earning wages from our fast food restaurants, our retailers, and more. These teenagers of today and those who are younger will be employees of potentially all of our businesses in the future. If the young people are not receiving the lessons and skills that are required for our employers, our companies cannot compete and continue operations. If they do, they will go outside of the community for employees (which by the way, only increases our unemployment rates) or they lower their standards, neither of which is a healthy way of running a business.


I hear from our business community what they need from their employees and I pass that along to the administration at the fine educational systems we have in Scotland and the surrounding counties. We are blessed in our community to not only have the Scotland County School system to work with, but we also have Richmond Community College serving our county and St. Andrews University, located right here in Scotland County. These are great educational establishments that care about their students and want to provide the best opportunities possible for their customers. In addition, just a short ride down the road, we have The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Again, another local institution dedicated to educating our young people and preparing them for a future in the workforce.


It is imperative to our business community that all children of today, from pre-school through high school, are being taught what they need to be successful in the workforce. Then should those students choose to move on to further their education, we want them to be prepared for that next level. On the other hand, if they choose a skilled labor, we want them to have the tools to be successful there as well.


This week I hope you have a fabulous “Back to School” week and that this school year will be a very productive in producing tomorrow’s workforce for our businesses!


Tonia Stephenson is president of the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce.


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