Written by Lorin Brice Hall
On Saturday, Nov. 10, RC’s Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation (CLEI) and Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) club partnered with the City of Salem to host the first Annual Salem Civic Challenge. The event was a competition in which student teams attempted to construct and present an action plan to address a civic issue that the City decided on.
This year’s prompt regarded incentivizing local high school students toward skilled trade jobs, as there is a rising demand for labor in trade jobs that persistently remains unfilled. Another task was to change misinformed public perceptions of the “dirtiness” and danger of such jobs, many of which have been transformed into technology-driven careers.
With no prior knowledge of the topic, competitors from many different majors gathered in the Cregger Center to start off the day with a presentation from the City. With just a few hours to research the topic and consult officials from the City and community leaders on the viability of their ideas, students worked tirelessly to create a practical plan of action.
The seven teams that competed ended up impressing the judges so much that a representative from the City doubled the initial total prize money of $1000. Among the policy ideas proposed were plans to reach out to young women (especially single moms), the demographic in the Salem area that had the most to gain from trade jobs, as well as initiating plans to give high school students field trips to skilled trade workplaces in order to help remove the stigma from trade jobs that persists in this nation. All of the teams cited this cultural stigma surrounding trade jobs as the greatest obstacle to overcome.
Mr. Steve Baker, CLEI director and business professor as well as the architect of the challenge, was pleased with the outcome of the challenge.
“The City was incredibly enthused about the results of our first ever event. It should be pointed out that I have been advised by the City of Salem that they will be using the ideas presented by the student groups at the Challenge to solve the problem presented,” said Baker.
Gaston “Gaucho” Ocampo, a member of one of two teams that tied for first place, found the experience to be extremely enriching.
“I think this was a fantastic opportunity to further engage students with real issues that are going on in this beautiful college town that we, the Maroon student body, call our home away from home. Not only did we get to learn and acquire valuable skills for our professional lives, but we were also able to help the community by working toward solving problems that are affecting locals,” said Ocampo.
Cassidy Sullivan, treasurer of CEO Club, enjoyed planning and facilitating the Challenge.
“It was a great experience for all of the executives in the club. As a club we are really trying to expand and reach out to more than just business majors, and I believe that this event was the perfect opportunity. We had students from all different majors using entrepreneurial mindsets, which is really the goal of the CEO club. We want to bring people together who share that same entrepreneurial spirit,” said Sullivan.