Bridging the Gap Between Today’s Professionals and Tomorrow’s Talent

Posted in Blog on August 12, 2019

Bridging the Gap Between Today’s Professionals and Tomorrow’s Talent 

The Significant Untapped Potential for Connections between High Schoolers and Local Businesses 

By: Ryan Lindberg, Lakeshore Advantage Intern 


Once a month, I get to eat dinner with Mayor DeBoer. I have this opportunity through serving on the Holland Youth Advisory Council (HYAC) which involves students in local government. I am also Chair of the Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). Through YAC, high school students engage in youth philanthropy and build relationships with nonprofits. These are two great examples of how perspectives of young people have been successfully incorporated into our local organizations. Yet, there is still so much untapped potential for connections between high schoolers and professionals, especially when it comes to our world-class business community. 

When I was a freshman applying to serve on YAC and HYAC, I had no idea what they were all about. In fact, I didn’t even understand they were two separate organizations since their names are so similar. I just knew I wanted to get involved. Despite my initial confusion, these programs have given me the opportunity to see firsthand the inner workings of our region. They developed in me a curiosity about our economic scene, but there was no clear way for a high school student to participate. I worked up the courage to write a letter and send my resume to Jennifer Owens, president of our region’s local economic development organization, who graciously accepted my offer to volunteer at Lakeshore Advantage. 

Initially, my responsibilities consisted of scanning and filing documents for a few hours a week. While I did not acquire a passion for scanning, I considered it an opportunity to contribute and learn. Over time, I have been given additional responsibilities such as assisting with research, data analysis and grant writing. After a year, I was officially hired as the Business Solutions Intern. It has been the highlight of my summer to work every day alongside such amazingly fun and talented people. In retrospect, even during my time spent scanning, I was absorbing valuable information about how Lakeshore Advantage supports the growth of startups and primary employers in West Michigan. 

Many students dream of the careers we will have one day, and it has been ingrained in us that this process starts after we graduate high school. While we are searching for the right career path, employers are constantly struggling to find young talent with the specific skills they need. What if we eliminated this disconnect? If high schoolers could get exposure to the professional world before graduating, we would be able to make better informed decisions regarding college or other post-secondary training. Additionally, having established relationships with business leaders would encourage young people to return to West Michigan to live and work. Ultimately, this would better align the skills of our workforce with the needs of our employers. 

I encourage high schoolers to reach out to a local business and offer their time and skills. I know this can be intimidating, but there is a good chance they will be welcoming to you. Similarly, I encourage employers to say “yes” to the high schooler that reaches out to you. We have a lot to offer. What better mentors are there for our aspiring talent than our excellent industry leaders? What better place is there for students to make their first professional connections than West Michigan, where our world-class manufacturing companies employ over 55,000 people and produce a gross regional product of over $8 billion annually in Allegan and Ottawa Counties? What better time is there for students to take their first steps toward becoming part of our local workforce, our professional workforce, than right now? 


Ryan Lindberg is a senior at Holland Christian High School. He is a member of several youth committees in Holland and believes in the importance of incorporating the perspectives of young people in community organizations. Ryan also loves to play school and club soccer. He is looking forward to choosing a college and all the adventures that lie ahead! Ryan’s motto is: Anywhere is just a stone’s throw away if you have a good enough arm.