Development of a new generation of entrepreneurs and other business leaders is about to get underway--courtesy of the Boy Scouts.

At a meeting of its top leaders in New Orleans last week, the Boy Scouts of America announced a new partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to bring together scouts and local business communities ​throughout the country.

The program will be run through Exploring, a coed, career-focused subdivision of scouting that's open to youths from 14-20 and boasts more than 110,000 members nationwide. While the group's focus traditionally has been on areas such as firefighting and emergency services, the new partnership will open Explorers to a range of industries. This could include businesses like engineering firms, dairy farms, or virtually anything in between.

The partnership is intended to be more than just an internship or job shadowing program. "What we are really trying to do is speak to the needs right now across the country and in our communities," Diane Thornton, national director of the Exploring program, tells Inc. "Giving youth the opportunity and chance to experience certain careers, that's the beauty of Exploring."

Through the program, the young Explorers will have the opportunity to interact and form relationships with local businesses that can pay benefits when they begin their career search. (The sponsoring groups haven't yet released details on the employers that will take part in the program or details on specific activities the Explorers will be doing.)

Business-related education isn't anything new for scouting. Scouts have been earning a salesmanship merit badge since 1927, and a badge for business was added 40 years later. Other areas of training added in recent years include digital technology, animation, game design, and programming.

The new partnership is part of the Chamber of Commerce's youth employment initiative. Launched last year, the initiative is designed to supplement what the organization says is a deficit in career-oriented training in public schools. More than half of high school students do not believe school support services help them match their interests to potential occupations, according to a recent survey by YouthTruth, a nonprofit aimed at improving education.

"All the talk right now is around career readiness in education. Employers can add value to this space," says Erica Kashiri, policy director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. "Our partnerships like this are focused on work-based learning and internships to equip students with 'soft skills' like critical thinking."

Many famous entrepreneurs have highlighted scouting as the foundation for their professional careers, including Michael Bloomberg and hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, Jr. The National Eagle Scout Association also cites other luminaries among its ranks, including astronaut Neil Armstrong and former president Gerald Ford. This reporter can attest to scouting's real-world preparation as well, having been inspired by the journalism merit badge years ago.

Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh reiterated Scouting's commitment to career preparation. "With the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we will connect even more young adults nationwide to business leaders in careers that speak to their passion," he said in a press release. "Besides the invaluable hands-on career experience the Exploring program creates, youth participants also gain confidence in their skills and meet with professionals who can help guide them on their path to success."

Published on: Aug 31, 2016