Today’s high school students have more career opportunities than ever; many of them will have satisfying employment in jobs that do not yet exist. Businesses struggle daily to find qualified applicants for existing job openings. Fixing this mismatch is complicated.
On Wednesday, March 6, Goochland County Public Schools held its latest business roundtable workshop with local employers and high school students to learn where the needs of business and aspirations of students intersect.
|GHS students mingled with local business people to learn what employers are looking for in their workforce.|
View https://youtu.be/qpaSxL7chV0 to learn about some of our students.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Raley began the session, which included representatives Goochland County economic development; Chamber of Commerce; Reynolds Community College; and many local businesses, large and small.
“We’re developing a workforce for you,” Raley said. He contended that a well-trained sustainable local workforce will buy houses and cars, pay taxes, and contribute in many ways to a vibrant community well into the future.
“Our Bulldogs are doing awesome things every day, but we want to hear from you about what kinds of readily transferrable skills they need to prepare for success in their careers,” said Raley.
Dr. Steve Geyer, assistant superintendent for instruction gave a brief overview of the Profile of a Goochland Graduate Please take a look at http://goochlandschools.org/hendron/Profile2.html . “Goochland takes a harder, and more personal, path,” said Geyer. “We want to know what you—employers—want from our students beyond content mastery. Ours (standards) are not measured by the state accountability system and are hard to evaluate. We want our graduates to leave school prepared to be successful in life.”
Dr. Paula Pando, president of Reynolds Community College—J.Sarge was dropped a few years ago—said she is still transitioning to her new position after a move from New Jersey and described herself as “a little bit Yankee, a little bit y’all” as she began her remarks.
“We are in the fourth industrial revolution,” Pando contended. “Jobs are going away but new jobs are being created in their place that require some sort of post-secondary credential.” The Virginia Community College system is working to find affordable ways to help employees train to fill those job vacancies with better prospects. One of the challenges, said Pando, is that federal programs like Pell grants, fund degrees that are not in high demand. (Unlike student loans, these grants, available to qualified low income candidates, do not saddle recipients with debt.) There are no federal fund programs for developing programs in high demand skills, she said.
Beginning this summer, RCC will offer a commercial driver’s license (CDL) program costing approximately $1,500, which could be as little as $450 for those with financial need. “These in demand jobs pay $60,000 and up right out of the gate. That can be life changing for a family,” Pando said. “I had a Daddy who put three kids through college driving a truck.”
Pando said that the partnership with Goochland Schools whereby qualified students can earn an associate’s degree before they graduate from high school—Reynolds commencement falls earlier in the year that GHS graduation—and start college as academic juniors has been successful. This gives students a head start on college success and eases the financial burden on parents.
There are the other students who do fine in the classroom who may struggle with homelessness and never finish their programs. They need extra support to find their place in the world of work.
Reynolds Goochland Campus will host an open house on Thursday, April 25 beginning at 5:45 p.m., which will include recruiting for the initial CDL class cohort. See http://www.reynolds.edu/who_we_are/outreach/pdf/Reynolds-Open-House-Agenda-GC-EC-final.pdf for more information.
Raley then asked the attendees for their input to help students contemplate their lives outside the classroom. “We need your help because we value your experience and insight.” He asked for volunteers to help with mock interviews to help student better prepare for the real thing.
Breakout sessions followed where representatives from local business discussed their challenges finding employees with the skills they need. A group of seniors listened attentively.
The feedback followed common themes. Many reported difficulties in finding employees with requisite licensure in a particular field. Others commented on the dearth of “soft skills” among young people who would rather text than deal with clients face-to-face.
One group lamented the lack of early emphasis on trades. The current fashion of parents shaming each other if their children do not go to college does not reflect the reality that people can be successful in many ways. (The recently revealed college entrance cheating scandal gives credence to the absurdity of this.)
Lack of personal skills, the ability to interact with customers and fellow employees were common complaints. The ability to define and solve common problems; be properly respectful; basic leadership; good phone skills; and being well-rounded were described as desirable traits in employees.
Stan Corn, proprietor of Alarms, Inc. commended the Career and Technical (CTE) programs offered by GCPS. He is on its advisory committee, which provides business people a place to be heard about what they need in employees. Corn also offered sage advice to young people, who, he contended, must be taught how to work. “Be willing to work. Stay out of trouble and keep your fingerprints out of the FBI database. Background checks look at social media. You’re killing yourself with your stupidity.”
|Stan Corn of Alarms, Inc. offered common sense advice to young people.|
Everything in life, Corn contended, is about selling. “You need to know how to present a concept and get others to accept what you have to offer.”
Even first graders in Goochland schools get a taste of CTE programs. Expanding the universe of career opportunities is key to matching talents with skills and fulfilling the division’s goal of maximizing the potential of every learner.