BYL: An investment in our future leaders

This story was originally published in the Sept. 17, 2019 BIZ print edition.

Workforce development is a key component of a thriving economy and for nearly 25 years, the Bossier Chamber has been investing in growing the future leaders and workforce of Northwest Louisiana through the Bossier Youth Leadership Program.

The program takes select high school juniors from Bossier Parish and trains them to take on leadership roles and gain experiences in civic engagement.

BYL is a partnership between the Chamber and Bossier Parish Schools. Through different sessions throughout the school year, the program teaches Bossier students leadership and teambuilding skills while introducing them to the facets of their local economy: quality of life, government and law enforcement, social services, education, healthcare, technology and economic development, with a final session trip to the Capitol.

By identifying our workforce needs in the region, the program showcases how each student can find a place in their hometown. These sessions are not just informational but help the students make educated decisions for their future careers and help maintain our workforce.

I didn’t get to experience the BYL program in high school but now I am serving as the coordinator and I feel as though this is a great learning experience for me. I am getting to see the way the business community supports our students as they are our future workforce.

Being a member of the workforce community now, I have already learned skills to take with me to be a leader in my own way at my own job just from attending one session alone. The students so far have completed a Leadership Training day where they learned what being a leader means and ways to be a leader. They learned simple things like speaking confidently and projecting your voice to communicating clearly and effectively on exactly what you mean to avoid any possible hiccups.

While this program is full of helpful information for our future leaders, it most importantly assists students in Bossier Parish to see where they could fit in the workforce following high school and/or college. The community benefits when students can see the jobs available for them that might not require traditional schooling, but rather a form of vocational training.

Every session the students participate in show a facet of our local workforce. They learn about running a school system to helping children in the area that are being mistreated through the help of social services. They visit the Capitol and learn about the government and how the state is run. They also learn about healthcare and even deliver a baby through a simulation.

This opens students’ minds to a different path than what they might have considered. For some, it shows that college is a great step to being a future doctor or that they only need workforce training to become a great police officer.

Overall the program works to create responsible and productive citizens at home, continuing to sow the seeds of leadership and teambuilding as the students continue to grow in their hometown. It is vital for these students to invest back into our own area.

If you are a business wondering how you can get involved with the BYL Program, email Caroline@bossierchamber.com.

Caroline Reed is the Communications Manager & BYL Coordinator for the Bossier Chamber of Commerce