Chamber luncheon to focus on business connections

Employment: School leaders eager to match students with job skills

of the HeraldMarch 12, 2014 

The Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce is retooling its State of the Education Luncheon to focus more broadly on workforce development.

“This will look at how we can better partner with school districts, colleges and vocational schools so that they’re training students on what employers are needing,” said Shelly Schlumpf, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer.

The superintendents of both Puyallup and Sumner schools, as well as Pierce College-Puyallup President Marty Cavalluzzi, will give brief addresses on Friday at the Washington State Fairgrounds regarding the state of education.

Afterward, the chamber will add an hour to the program during which business owners can visit booths that will represent various college and high school campuses, Schlumpf said. Those will include Washington State University, the University of Washington-Tacoma, Pierce College District, Cascade Christian High School and Pacific Lutheran University.

“This will give an opportunity for career and technical advisers to listen to the needs of businesses and then maybe adapt their curriculum to meet those needs,” Schlumpf said. “Businesses will have an avenue to fill positions at the luncheon, to get qualified applicants for their jobs.”

Cavalluzzi, who started at Pierce College-Puyallup last July, said he is excited about the opportunity.

“If students can get an internship at a company, it gives them a good experience and gives the employer some good labor,” Cavalluzzi said. “(Pierce College) truly serves the community. We serve the internal community, which is our students, and the external community, which is where students are going. The best way to do that is to make connections.”

Since he joined the chamber, Cavalluzzi said he has leveraged meetings to speak with business owners to ask them what their employment needs are, and then he assessed how Pierce College may be able to fill them.

Cavalluzzi said he sees Friday’s luncheon as an extension of what he’s already been doing.

“We really want to start a dialogue with people,” he said. “People coming out of high school and Pierce College are ready to go to work. The question is, ‘If you’re not hiring them, why not?’ I suspect some businesses don’t even know that this is a resource.”

Cavalluzzi hopes the luncheon will become more of a recruiting fair in the future.

Maxine Herbert-Hill, the director of academic internships at Pacific Lutheran University, said she is excited for the opportunity to connect with employers.

“It’s a unique position for our business community,” Herbert-Hill said. “I’m very looking forward to what employers can tell us about what they need us to do to strengthen our students to be better candidates entering the workforce.”

Herbert-Hill said the value of an internship is huge for both the employer and the student.

“Internships bridge that skills gap because it shows students what they’re missing,” she said. “(During an internship) employers can still press upon them about those skill sets that are critical for employment.”

Herbert-Hill said some employers view student interns in a negative light.

“But if a program is set up well, it should be a strong asset to the employer and an enormous professional development experience for the students,” she said. “I would be very happy to work with any employer to help them pull together the structure of an internship program where they could truly benefit from it.”

Herbert-Hill said she plans to bring a student to the luncheon who has had success with internships, as well as a Pierce County-based employer that has benefited from a PLU internship program.

If you go

The State of Education luncheon will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Fair View Club of the Washington State Fair Events Center. It will be open to both chamber and non-chamber members. Guests can register at

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