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Take-Kids-to-Work Day Serves as Crash Course in Workplace Realities

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By Mary Ellen Podmolik

work-webRISMEDIA, April 23, 2009-(MCT)-Some school-age children across the nation will descend on their parents’ offices today in what likely will be a crash course on today’s workplace realities.

Participants in the 17th annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day will find the programs scaled back, the field trips gone and the goody bags skimpier than they used to be. They also may find that, with more than 6 million people nationally receiving unemployment benefits, there are empty cubicles near where mom or dad sit.

“One of the companies said to me that’s the way the business goes and kids need to understand that’s why you need an education, that it’s a possibility that they can lose their jobs,” said Carolyn McKecuen, president of the Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation.

Nearly 3 million workplaces held some kind of event last year, McKecuen said, and based on calls seeking information about the program, employer interest is up at least 15% this year.

“It’s a morale builder and it’s not extremely costly to the organization,” she said. “I just can’t tell you how many new people we have this year; it’s astounding to me.”

Still, children who show up won’t get the treats they once did: “Every large organization and every small company is definitely cutting back on everything they can in their office,” McKecuen said.

The event got its start in 1993 when the Ms. Foundation for Women launched the Take Our Daughters to Work program. It was renamed and expanded to include boys in 2003. Two years ago, the Ms. Foundation passed the program’s administration to a newly created foundation that is dependent on large corporations, including many banks, for funding.

For some companies, participation in the event has waned or is decided on a department-by-department basis, while some employers conduct their events during the summer.

Some companies say the program also helps with brand-building. “We see this as an opportunity to connect with and engage the future generation of leaders, who are certainly also potential customers and future employees,” said Krista Gleason, a spokeswoman for Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak, which will host as many as 3,000 children at various sites.

About 75 children are expected at Chicago-based law firm Mayer Brown, which cut about 170 jobs worldwide in the last six months. Unlike previous events, there won’t be a field trip like last year’s tour of U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox baseball team. The agenda will include a mock trial, speakers, and breakfast and lunch with the parents.

“One of the wonderful things about these days is that these are young people who like asking questions,” said Debora de Hoyos, a Mayer Brown partner. “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we got questions on how the economy has had an impact on the firm.

“It’s a good thing for them to have the opportunity to see the good and the bad of what happens in a workplace, of the fortunate and the unfortunate.”

Lockton Cos. LLC, a Kansas City, Mo.-based insurance brokerage, plans a “career fair” for the 20 or so children it expects at its 80-person Chicago office. The local branch got the green light to participate, despite nine layoffs in the last six months, because it wants to stress the importance of education, spokeswoman Joanne Kushner said.

In previous years, several hundred children of Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court employees ended their day with a goody bag filled with coloring books, museum passes, candy and desserts, courtesy of corporate donations. This year, the 500 children expected may find themselves toting home a lighter load. The court has had difficulty snaring donations as well as speakers for the event, said Aquilla Thomas, assistant chief deputy clerk.

© 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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