Date Posted
Sep 13, 2018

WBA announces $50K contribution to Youth Engagement Initiative

Whatcom Business Alliance Board chairman Doug Thomas and president Tony Larson, along with education committee co-chairs Laura McKinney (director of NW Government Affairs and Public Relations for Alcoa) and Tom Kenney (recently retired regional president for Washington Federal), have announced phase two of the Youth Engagement Initiative, the WBA’s major youth outreach effort.

More than 60 business leaders, school district representatives, career and technical education experts, and government representatives were in attendance. The event also included the announcement of $50,000 in initial program seed funding from the WBA.

At the event, McKinney and Kenney presented a strategic plan with goals and metrics to help build bridges between Whatcom businesses, educators, students and parents. The initiative will work in partnership with employers, educators and like-minded organizations to create synergies that advance youth employment and career opportunities in Whatcom County. It aims to be an information hub for career paths, available jobs, internships, job shadow opportunities and training programs, to help youth find the jobs and careers they love.

“The WBA board of directors identified a need to improve communication between businesses, educators, students and their families,” McKinney said. “We are reaching out to our young people to help them understand the value of business in a vibrant economy, to inform them of career opportunities right here in Bellingham and throughout Whatcom County, and to help them navigate pathways toward good careers and family-wage jobs.”

Phase 1 of the Youth Engagement Initiative led to the February 2018 kick-off event with more than 300 high school students at Bellingham Technical College. Students heard from local business leaders and entrepreneurs about their experiences and the skills that got them to where they are today: persistence, curiosity, tenacity and sheer force of will. The speakers encouraged students to find their motivation and to be excited for the lives they can create for themselves.

The initiative connects Whatcom County students with the Junior Achievement Job Shadow curriculum to help get them thinking about possible careers. It also includes an onsite visit to local businesses for some real-world context.

For more information on the Initiative and opportunities for collaboration, visit or contact the Whatcom Business Alliance at 360-746-0418.