OKANOGAN – Juniors from Okanogan and Omak high schools will get a taste of the business world next week during the annual Business Week program.

Each year, students from the two schools spend a week’s worth of class time – March 6-10 this year - at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex, 175 Rodeo Trail, learning about running a company. About 140 students are expected, said Charlie Arvidson of the Okanogan-Omak Rotary Club, which coordinates the event.

“As in the past, the format is to break up the students into teams – companies - of approximately 12 students each, with each company a mix (of students) from the two schools,” Arvidson said.

“The school districts have found the Business Week program to be instrumental in teaching students job and life skills, and requires all students in the junior class to attend,” said Rotary officials.

Students work in teams, or companies, guided by an adult mentor with business experience. Students learn through an advanced computer simulation that takes them through the process of running a business.

Students take on roles such as CEO, chief financial officer, marketing director and more.

“Every decision the team makes, from pricing to production, can affect their bottom line,” Rotary said.

“Within this setting, students will utilize their decision-making and critical thinking skills,” said Okanogan Principal Bob Shacklett. “Students will also have the opportunity to gain valuable information to help them further their post-high school and career planning.”

During the week, students also participate in discussions about business practices, fiscal responsibility and succeeding in the real world. Speakers from business and government help lead the discussions.

Projects are judged Thursday and Friday, and a trade show is planned Friday.

“As we introduce the juniors to the process, students are initially resistant, as it creates a change in their days,” said Omak Principal David Kirk. “Students have grown up with the rivalry between the schools, but participate with both schools in church, club sports, etc. As a result, the students know each other.”

By mid-week, tensions between the schools is gone and the focus shifts to tensions between the company teams.

“As the event continues toward Friday, the passion and team spirit is great, and I have always had students ask if they could do Business Week the following week as well, or next year,” Kirk said. “It is a great program to expose students to the hard work our local business owners manage on a daily basis.”

That lines up with what Washington Business Week officials want to promote.

The organization surveyed the state’s top employers to learn what they look for in employees.

“We matched the results with best practices in education to come up with these six core competencies that we integrate throughout our program – communication, critical thinking and decision making, teamwork and diversity, adaptability and accountability,” the organization said.

The week’s culminating activity will be student presentations in an open forum on Friday, March 10, Shacklett said.

More than 30 individuals volunteer their time to serve as judges on Thursday and Friday. More volunteers are welcome, Arvidson said. Lunch will be provided to judges on Thursday, and coffee and doughnuts on Friday.

Arvidson said the end-of-program trade show is a fun event where students try to sell judges on buying shares in their companies.

The event’s budget is around. $9,000, which is funded by donations from more than 50 local business, community service groups and individuals.

Rotary underwrites the expenses “if we are unable to raise the total,” Arvidson said. “Because of the generosity of our community, Rotary has not had to do this.”

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