Teachers learn needs of local businesses

Published 10:34 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

By Jeanna Baxter White

Beaudigital for

Davie CONNECT

The more you know, the more you can teach.

Five Davie County educators deepened their teaching skills by touring area companies to gain a renewed understanding of the skills needed by employers to help their students find meaningful careers and local industry to grow.

During the week-long externship, the educators from Davie County Schools toured Ashley Furniture, Dex Heavy Duty Truck Parts, Dunlop Aircraft Tyres, Flow Honda of Winston-Salem, Ingersoll Rand, Pro Refrigeration, Wake Forest Baptist Health – Davie Medical Center and VF Jeanswear, now Kontoor Brands.

The week started with a tour of COGNITION, the interactive space for children, families, and the community to acquire knowledge through play, learning, and growth.  COGNITION will be a space where learners of all ages are able to ask questions, then discover answers through inspiring learning. It will serve as a resource for students and the teachers could envision many field trips.

The group visited United Way of Davie County to learn about the agency’s commitment to the mental, behavioral and emotional wellbeing of students. The teachers and counselor were invited to tour the Teachers’ Closet, a room full of school supplies free for Davie teachers.

Industry visits ranged from a couple of hours to a day, based upon the amount of information the host location had to share.

The purpose of the partnership between Davie Schools, Davie Economic Development Commission (DCEDC) and Davie industry is to make local students aware of career opportunities and technological needs by providing relevant experiences for Davie High teachers. Teachers and faculty are connected to related industries to an understanding of current industry practices and technology as well as the soft skills necessary for success.

“This externship offers the opportunity for educators to see first-hand the importance of the curriculum they teach and how it is used in real world applications,” said Carolyn McManamy, director of Davie CONNECT. “This is extremely important because the more our teachers know, the better equipped they are to make students aware of all educational and employment opportunities.  We want our businesses in our schools working with our students so that they better understand the connection of education to careers.”

This workforce development partnership, which started in 2014, was funded for the first five years by the Mebane Charitable Foundation’s $50,000 contribution to the DCEDC’s five-year economic growth plan, Together We Are Davie. DCEDC assumed sponsorship this year.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Mebane Foundation for the past five years we have been able to develop a partnership with industries and our local high school teachers,” said Terry Bralley, president of the Davie County Economic Development Commission. “Each summer teachers learned from an industry what jobs are available and the education required for each job. This has created tremendous awareness and relationships between local industries and high school teachers, students and families. This program results in teachers being better equipped to further opportunities for students with paid externships and career paths while developing a potential local workforce.”

The program was open to all CTE and STEM teachers and guidance counselors. Participants were selected through an application process and received a daily stipend and mileage. The knowledge they gained will be shared with students and fellow teachers.

This year’s participants included: Matthew Barker, STEM English I & II; Collin Ferebee, STEM Earth & Environmental science; Will Marrs, Drafting I/Drafting II + III Engineering and SkillsUSA advisor; Katy Nguyen, a counselor at Ellis Middle School; and Shane Young, CTE (Personal Finance/Entrepreneurship) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) advisor. Other attendees included McManamy and Anthony Davis, director of CTE and federal programs for Davie County High School; as well as Susan Burleson, VP Davie campuses and institutional effectiveness for DCCC;  Elizabeth Kilby, program director continuing education and workforce development for DCCC – Davie Campus; and Michelle Slaton, business engagement specialist for the Piedmont Triad Regional Council Workforce Development Board.

“I am always pushing for relevance in my classroom. When my students ask me ‘when are we going to use this?’ or ‘how does this apply to the ‘real world’,’ I want to have an answer,” said Ferebee. “While I can use my personal experiences to help drive home certain skills, there are things that I have no idea about. Going on these industry visits and seeing the operations first-hand, as well as speaking with individuals ranging from entry-level operators to general managers, helped to reinforce the skills and knowledge needed to attain a job in these industries.”

“This information will help with painting a picture of real-world possibilities for students as they explore possible future career paths and consider what their economic and occupational goals are,” said Young.

“The externship provides an invaluable experience to teachers to discover the needs of employers so that we are able to integrate these needs into our curriculum to be mastered by our students,” said Marrs. He grew up in Davie County, graduated from Davie High and began his professional career in product design. He is now in his third-year teaching at Davie High as a lateral entry instructor.

“I am passionate about the community that raised me, and I want to convey that passion to my students to have them understand that a successful, lucrative, and globally-connected career in both entry level, and advanced capacity can be had within Davie County.

“I want to continue to remain modern and well-versed on what is currently happening with industry. I am under-serving my career and technical education students if I am not making an effort to do so.  It is so vital that as an instructor in this particular CTE environment that we take these steps outside of the classroom in meeting with employers and remaining abreast of what the current industry climate is. It allows us to continue to keep our knowledge of industry up-to-date as well as decide what skills we need to acquire in the future as an educator to be able to better serve students,” Marrs said.

“Having knowledge of career opportunities within the county can benefit students of all ages, including middle school students,” said Nguyen. “Some students know by eighth grade that they don’t have an interest in attending a four-year university, and as the counselor for these students, I need to know what opportunities are available to them locally.”

The opportunity to educate teachers about the skills needed in employees and to let the students at the high school know that there are a variety of jobs available locally were primary reasons why the businesses chose to participate.

“Participating in the teacher externship program is a great way for Dunlop Aircraft Tyres and our employees to be active in our community and strive to have a name that is synonymous with Mocksville and Davie County,” said Jeremy Neff, general manager. “The program gives teachers a better hands-on experience and understanding of the skills required to work in this particular environment.  The understanding of all aspects of the manufacturing process provides them the knowledge to prepare students for real-world applications of the skills that they are learning.”

Todd Parsons, senior HR generalist at Ingersoll Rand, said: “At Ingersoll Rand, we are committed to good corporate citizenship and believe that advancing the quality of life requires taking an active role in addressing the issues impacting our company and communities. It is vital for our success that we focus on and support STEM and early education experiences.

“Partnering with teacher externship to bring educators through our facility is a great way to foster STEM education and create awareness of technology trends and the work environment that they can then take back to the classroom. Our hope is that their experience translates to children, especially females, developing a passion to join STEM-related careers in manufacturing.”

“The teacher externship has played a vital role in connecting our company to the community and a future workforce,” said Jon Riesenweber, general manager of Pro-Refrigeration. “We believe programs like this will help to ensure that local youth are better prepared to take advantage of the county’s economic growth.”

“Davie Medical Center has truly appreciated the opportunity to host the Davie County Schools Externship program the last few years,” said Matt Britt, marketing manager for Wake Forest Baptist Health – Davie and Lexington medical centers. “It is great to see the passion to learn about healthcare and Davie Medical Center from the teachers and other faculty that attend. This year’s conversations about sustainability efforts and innovations happening within Davie High School and the county were both intriguing and enlightening. We look forward to having the program back again in 2020.”

“Although I have worked in Davie County for seven years, I still knew little about the businesses that operate within its borders,” said Barker. “If I don’t know anything about the opportunities available at home, how can I help my students take advantage of them?”

“Even at certain businesses that I am familiar with or have visited before, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the career offerings to be had at both the entry, and advanced level, and I was impressed by the variety,” said Marrs. “These businesses are so much more than manufacturing, or health care, or automotive…The variety of skill sets needed for the different positions is something students need to be aware of as well as recognition that there is so much more to being involved in a company or corporation than the primary product or service they provide.

“I was also surprised by the upward mobility that is available in a lot of the companies that we were able to visit,” said Marrs. “I went in with assumption that the only jobs available to someone without a four-year degree were very entry level and would require a degree of some sort to advance past that.  I was amazed to hear that a lot of supervisory and higher-level jobs within the company were achieved or are able to be achieved through experience and most of all, work ethic.”

“I was amazed by the wide range of industry in Davie County that I knew so little about,” said Ferebee. “I knew of these companies, and vaguely what they did, but these tours have shown the growth of Davie County’s economic sector. It also stands out to me that our students have plenty of opportunities for jobs, even if a four-year college is not in their future. My experiences will help me encourage my high school diploma and two-year college students, as well. While some of the jobs we saw may not be glamorous, our students can take their high school education and make a comfortable living for themselves and their family.”   

All agreed that what they learned and experienced will be invaluable for their students.

“Throughout the externship, my fellow participants and I generated many ideas for how to incorporate our new knowledge into the classroom,” said Barker. “We have already networked with individuals from each business to have representatives come into the schools to speak to students about their companies and the realities of their jobs.”

“Being able to see one of my former students who is participating in the Davie/Davidson Apprenticeship Consortium, and to hear that this student is excelling within their position, and most importantly enjoying their time during their apprenticeship is such a big energizer as an educator,” said Marrs. “I will be relaying this to other instructors as well as our administration in charge of seeking out these students.”

Davis is grateful to the organizations that allowed the externs entry into their facilities and hopes that additional businesses will want to participate next summer.

“We are truly trying to create a partnership,” he said. “We want to include as many businesses as possible. Communication is key. For the businesses to get their word out, they need us, and for us to get the word out, we need them. Businesses are telling us they can’t fill slots. We want them to know that we are a direct pipeline to community workforce development. Through communication and collaboration, we can be utilized as an important avenue for these workforce vacancies,” he said. “We need to make sure the students know all of their options. We don’t want to steer any child toward a direction they do not want to go, but we need to make sure that they and their parents know all of the opportunities that are in Davie County.”