Banquet helps students to connect with business leaders
The second annual Business Connect banquet in Swift Current was even more successful than the inaugural event to create networking opportunities between students and local business leaders.
The banquet was hosted by the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce at the Christ the Redeemer hall, Nov. 19.
Chamber CEO Karla Wiens said the event was attended by 53 business leaders, which was about 10 more than last year. They were joined by around 13 students from the business program at Great Plains College and 38 students from the Swift Current Comprehensive High School (SCCHS) Business Club.
The business chamber started this initiative to connect local business leaders with developing entrepreneurs from the college and high school.
“We really recognized the importance of working with the next generation, because these will be the next business leaders in Swift Current,” she said.
The event is an opportunity for students with an interest in business and entrepreneurship to speak directly with business owners and managers.
“We are intergenerational in our business succession planning,” she said. “So it’s very important to foster that sense of business community with these students early, because odds are they will be the ones coming back and be our next business leaders and partners in business here with some of the folks that are in attendance this evening.”
She noted that the students are thirsty for knowledge and they want to learn from these business leaders how to achieve success.
“The business leaders that are in attendance at an event like this are invested in the success of the next generation,” she said. “They want to provide mentorship and they want to see these student succeed, and give them different advice and tips on things that they might not have thought about.”
She added that business leaders can also learn from the younger generation and the students can provide them with new ideas and different perspectives.
“I had someone leave this evening saying this is another great event,” she mentioned. “Last year after this event they actually hired a student from the college who has turned out to be a really great employee at one of the manufacturing industries here in Swift Current. So that’s a success story where we can connect people and help them develop, whether it be the business people or the students.”
Three students and three business people were seated at each table for the four-course meal. The students changed tables after each course to give them an opportunity to interact with as many business leaders as possible.
Margaret Schafer, the business program coordinator at Great Plains College, attended the banquet for the first time.
“It’s quite exciting,” she said. “I think just listening to what’s going on around me there’s a lot of chatter. So it’s good for the students.”
She felt the discussions around the tables might help students to define their career paths. They do not only have an opportunity to speak to someone in the business world, but they can speak specifically to someone about different business roles, for example what an accountant does or somebody in human resources.
“Right now these students are in the first year business certificate and so a lot of them have an idea of a career path, and others are just kind of exploring their career path,” she said. “So hopefully this will give them an idea where they might like to go.”
There is an added benefit for the international students at the college who attended the banquet.
“It gives them an introduction to what business is like in Canada and specifically in this community,” she said.
According to SCCHS business education teacher Cindy Lowe the discussions around the tables are useful for students to learn interview skills.
“I want to put them in uncomfortable situations where they have to network and they have to think on their feet and they have to answer questions about themselves,” she said. “Those interview skills are priceless for getting jobs, but also I’m a big believer in developing pathways to their future. … They don’t have to go down a certain prescribed path. They might get an idea tonight and that build some kind of future thoughts for them and where they want to go in their careers.”
She appreciated the commitment of the business leaders who attended the banquet and who helped to mentor students through this interaction.
“We’re developing leaders in our school right now, student leaders, but also future business leaders,” she said. “That mentorship that business people are giving is something we can hardly duplicate in the high school in a classroom, and this experiential learning is so important for the kids to learn hands-on.”
Regina marketing consultant Jeph Maystruck was the keynote speaker at the banquet. He felt the movement of students between tables was an excellent networking idea that he has never seen before and it was a great opportunity for students to speak directly with business people.
“For any student at this point I think it's good to understand what
SCCHS Business Club students pose for a group photo after the 2nd annual Business Connect banquet, Nov. 19.
Above and below: Students network with Swift Current’s business people at the 2nd annual Business Connect banquet, Nov. 19.
Brock Friesen, Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce past board chair, delivered the closing remarks at the 2nd annual Business Connect banquet, Nov. 19.