I will never forget my first REAL job. I was in 7th grade and employed after school by the Landis Cardboard Box Company.

I did all sorts of odd jobs inside and outside of the factory. The jobs were not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, ­­but the paycheck most certainly was. It wasn’t so much the money as it was the feeling that I had, at the age of 13, self-worth and achievement.

In fact, I can still remember that very first paycheck. I had never seen my full name typed before, yet there it was, “ROBERT WONDERLING,” peering back at me through the window of an envelope. Wow! What a memory. More importantly, though, was the experience I got from that job that laid the groundwork for my future career.

We may think that 13 years old, or even younger, is too young to start thinking about a future career, but it is now more vital than ever to foster necessary skills at an early age that will one day be needed for our jobs of the future. In Philadelphia, an estimated 22 percent of people lack basic literacy skills necessary to get a job.

Storyteller Event

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is a part of numerous different initiatives to help build Philadelphia’s future workforce. We are partnering with PNC Bank and the School District of Philadelphia to host our 13th Annual Read to Me Storyteller Event on May 19, where participating storytellers will spend the morning reading to a classroom of Philadelphia school children.

Contributions for the event will provide new and refurbished classroom libraries and bookbags to low-income schools for the 2017-18 school year, teacher workshops for best practices on early literacy, and reading tips to parents and caregivers.

Another initiative that the Chamber is facilitating, in partnership with Wells Fargo and the School District of Philadelphia, is Future Ready, a program that will engage Philadelphia middle school students with future career opportunities and the paths to take to get them there. The goal of the program is to provide students with in-classroom instruction followed by a unique experience where they have the opportunity to visit a local company to meet and interact with professionals in a workplace environment.

There are ways that you can join us as we begin to lay the groundwork for Philadelphia’s future workforce: sign up to become a Read to Me storyteller, invest in becoming a host company for Future Ready, or connect with Philadelphia Youth Network to hire a summer intern.

­

If you are interested in getting involved in other ways, email me at rwonderling@chamberphl.com.

Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.