Mentor program provides inside edge for young workforce
By Katie Maze
The Belton Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the university’s Career Services and Student Life departments to create Belton Apprentice, a unique program created to give students real-life training for the area they wish to major in. Originally Austin Apprentice, the chamber of commerce caught wind of this new idea and brought it home to Belton.
More than just job shadowing, Apprentice Belton is a structured mentorship that will team students with local businesses related to their field of study, allowing them to learn firsthand about the job world and build connections that will be valuable after graduation.
Career Services Director Don Owens says he couldn’t be more excited about the program.
“Our desire is to align students with a professional that has either had the same major … or in a profession that a student would like to consider for their life’s work.”
Apprentice Belton is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors of all majors and involves a simple application process that requires a professional letter of reference explaining why the student would be a solid candidate for Apprentice Belton. The deadline for applications is Oct. 4th, but Owens is positive about accepting late forms.
Students can pick up forms in the Career Services office, located in Mabee 230.
Once accepted into the program, students will be assigned a mentor who will walk with them through a four-month period beginning in January 2012. Facilitators hope that the mentors will offer valuable information about their own professional journeys that the students can use when deciding which field they want to dedicate their lives to before finishing their majors.
“The numbers are incredibly high of people who don’t have a job or a plan to go to graduate school after graduation….We’ve got to do a better job of helping students find their calling, and I get excited about that,” said Vice President for Student Life Dr. Byron Weathersbee.
He expressed concern for students who don’t know which step to take next as the real world of the workforce approaches. However, he feels confident that the implementation of Apprentice Belton will not only provide a sense of security and knowledge for students, but also help them determine their skills and find their calling through this hands-on experience.
Out of the university’s 3,100 students, ten will be selected to participate in the first cohort this spring. The exclusivity of the program is important in insuring that the mentors selected will be the cream of Belton’s crop and that the students chosen can be matched appropriately and receive the personal attention needed for success.
Programs Director for the Belton Chamber of Commerce Mark Arrazola explained the chamber’s desire to reach out to college students as well as benefit the Belton area by strengthening its workforce.
“A lot of students graduate from UMHB and are off to Austin, off to San Antonio, and often don’t realize that there are actually a lot of jobs in the fields they want to go in to right in this area.”
President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Stephanie O’Banion explained the mutual benefits of Apprentice Belton as astounding. Not only does the program increase the odds that alumni will stay and work in Belton, but participants also have the opportunity to form professional networks and receive the coveted job training that is so desired by companies.
O’Banion, who grew up in Belton, said, “We’d love to see the workforce that is trained here stay here and grow with us in this community, but our goal is that tomorrow’s workforce leaves college confident in what they’ve chosen to do, whether it’s here or not.”