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Focus on Manatee: Developing talent is critical for our region. The key is to start early

Manatee County students get financial lesson with Big Bank Theory

The annual Big Bank Theory aims to teach high school students how to manage money as adults.
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The annual Big Bank Theory aims to teach high school students how to manage money as adults.

As summer approaches, some local students have set their sights on job shadowing and securing internships. 

We’ve received inquiries and made connections. It is music to my ears because developing more pathways between students and our business community is a priority for the Manatee Chamber.

The topic of workforce comes up in most discussions I have with local business owners. The Chamber is developing new strategies to ensure our region is constantly building a talent pipeline. Offering students business information and experiences throughout their K-12 and post-secondary years is important and takes many partnerships to be successful.

Three weeks ago, the Chamber and USF Sarasota-Manatee partnered to offer several college students a job shadow experience. I attended the wrap-up lunch during which the students and business representatives shared highlights of their time together. 

I was struck by how many times the students commented on not realizing how many different kinds of careers were available within a business. A great example was the pre-med student who was able to see more sides of a hospital than just the role physicians play.

Another was a marketing major who learned about the many facets of running a large retail business, including distribution and logistics. Our goal is that through opportunities such as job shadowing, local students can make connections with companies that might end up being their employer and businesses can attract new talent.

CareerSource Suncoast offers tips on how to interview for a job.

Last week, the Chamber hosted a workshop for employers who are interested in learning how to successfully host an intern. We believe that increasing the number of internships in our community will result in a stronger pipeline of talent that is much more likely to stay in our area after graduation. 

Through our local Cross College Alliance and the Handshake platform, it’s even easier for businesses to experience a “one stop” option for reaching college students for internships and permanent positions. If you would like to have your business registered, please visit

On May 17, every fourth grade class in Manatee County public schools will host a business volunteer through the Chamber’s Project TEACH program. The aim is for elementary-aged students to begin imagining a wide range of future career opportunities. 

Jacki Dezelski-mug.jpg
Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

We know they can can easily picture being a nurse, teacher, veterinarian or professional athlete, but we want them to also know about the great career ladders in fields such as technology, manufacturing, finance, hospitality, business services, construction — the list goes on — and even owning their own company.

In October and November, every high school senior will participate in the Chamber’s Big Bank Theory program to gain a better understanding of personal finances and how their education and career choice can impact their income. 

Business volunteers will help the students navigate a typical month of expenses using a budget that is based on the market-rate salaries of a wide range of occupations. 

Is their education limited to a high school diploma? They will see what difference attaining a technical certificate, professional license or degree can mean. 

The Big Bank Theory, a crash course in personal finance, is teaching Manatee County seniors the reality of managing their money in life after high school.

Do they have two children? They will have to make choices about childcare and insurance expenses. 

Along the way, these students interact with business people who share insights from their careers and experiences.

If you are a business person who is interested in connecting with local students, I encourage you to reach out to the Manatee Chamber. Beyond the programs I have already mentioned, there are hundreds of business/education partnerships flourishing in Manatee County. 

Developing a world class talent pipeline is critical to the economic health of our region.

Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at or 941-748-3411.

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