Teachers learn needs of local businesses

Published 9:56 am Thursday, August 25, 2022

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By Jeanna B. White

Word Master Media Group

The more you know, the more you can teach.

Nine Davie County Schools educators became students as they toured area companies to gain a deeper understanding of the skills needed by students to find careers and help the local industry to grow.

During a three-day externship, the educators toured Ashley Furniture, Avgol, Brakebush, Gildan, Hayward Industries, Pro Refrigeration, and Sportsfield Specialties.

The week began with a tour of the soon-to-open Veteran’s View Intake Center, where participants discovered the scope of the programs that to be offered to veterans, active service members, their families, and the greater Davie community. The program’s primary components are wellness, vocational rehabilitation including education and workforce development, temporary residential services, and the Veteran’s Justice Center.

The teachers also heard about volunteer opportunities and internships for students.

The purpose of the community partnership between Davie County Schools, Davie County Economic Development Commission (DCEDC), and Davie industry is to make local students aware of local careers and technological needs by providing immersion experiences for Davie County teachers.

Through these summer externships in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), teachers and faculty are connected to their related industries to renew an understanding of industry practices and technology as well as the soft skills necessary for success.

“The summer externship is a tremendous collaborative effort between Davie County Schools, our Economic Development Commission,  Davie CONNECT, and our local businesses,” said Carolyn McManamy, director of Davie CONNECT.  “This externship offers the opportunity for educators to see firsthand the importance of the curriculum they teach and how it is used in real-world applications.  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.

“The relationships developed with our business community through these externships are invaluable. 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. Recognizing the continued value of the program, the DCEDC assumed continued sponsorship.

“Each summer teachers learn from industry what jobs are available and the education required for each job. This has created tremendous awareness and relationships between local industries and our teachers, students, and families,” said DCEDC President Terry Bralley. “This program results in teachers being better equipped to further career opportunities for students while developing a potential local workforce.”

This year’s participants included: Joey Anderson, behavior support, South Davie Middle;  Hannah Beck, behavior specialist, North and South Davie middle schools;  Lisa Doss,  AIG teacher, William Ellis Middle; Chelsea Dvorak, assistant principal, South Davie; Amy Hardister, eighth hrade ELA teacher, Ellis;  Diane Ireland, fifth grade teacher, William R. Davie;  William Miner,  mechatronics/robotics teacher, Davie High;  Melanie White,  STEM science teacher, Davie High; and Alyse Wooldridge, career development coordinator, Davie High.

Other attendees included program organizers McManamy and Anthony Davis, director of CTE and federal programs for Davie High.

“Our tours were very helpful and provided me with first-hand knowledge to give back to my students,” said Beck. “I work on goal setting with many students, some goals are to go to college, but others are to go straight into the workforce, and being able to share possible career options here in Davie County that meet all needs is great.  I learned a lot personally, and I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with local businesses.”

Hardister added: “This experience gave me insights into the career and technical skills that students will need for future employment. As we were guided through local industries, it opened our eyes to the wide array of opportunities that are available in the future for our students.

“Understanding the various career paths enables teachers to share our knowledge and look for ways to integrate skill sets that will help students strengthen their employability. This incredible opportunity that DavieCONNECT provides allows teachers to develop community partnerships. As a language arts teacher, I began to reflect on specific classroom experiences that would echo the communication skills and processes we observed.  This has reshaped the way I will focus on real-world skills in the classroom and also encouraged me to explore more ways to involve career and community in my future plans.”

“I appreciated the opportunity to learn about our local industries and see them in action,” Hardister said. “Not only were the businesses hospitable but also open to working with Davie educators to help us make real-world connections for our students. These types of partnerships help our students recognize the ins and outs of industry and the wealth of career choices they have for their future. I was so grateful for the opportunity, and the insights I gained will be reflected in my instructional techniques and curriculum.”

“We see it as both an opportunity, and an obligation, to share with our educators the scope of skills that our team members are building and the skills that will be required,” said Jim VanderGiessen, CEO of Pro Refrigeration. “It’s exciting to have the engagement and connection at this level.”

“Having the teachers tour through our manufacturing and distribution facilities was a great opportunity to showcase what our company does in the community,” said Eric Sparr, manager of Hayward Industries’ Mocksville site. “We enjoyed discussing the different jobs that our company offers to the local workforce.  It was also nice to speak with the teachers and learn about their students.”

The tours were also an excellent way for companies new to the area to introduce themselves.

“We participated because we are new to the area and wanted the community to know what we were all about,” said Joelle Flatt, human resources generalist at Sportsfield Specialties.

Teachers new to the area found the tours equally beneficial.

“Since I am not originally from Davie County I felt that this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the local businesses,” said Doss. “I am hoping to continue to work with the business reps to build a partnership with them and my students that would include opportunities for my students to take part in service projects and for them to become more familiar with their community businesses.”

Dvorack agreed: “I participated because I want to know about all the local opportunities for my students, both college and trade bound.  I am not from Davie County, so I’m always looking for ways to get more exposure to what Davie County has to offer. I thought this was a wonderful experience and was very impressed with the businesses in the area and their eagerness to partner with Davie County Schools to help prepare our students in the best ways possible. I am thankful for these businesses and the Economic Development Commission for providing us with this opportunity.”

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

“I like to create collaborative groups in my class and look forward to sharing with students how this method is used by Hayward Pool to improve processes within their facilities,” said White.

Ireland added: “Participating in the Davie County Externships this summer enabled me as an educator and as a citizen of Davie County to connect more with our community. The externship provided valuable insight into what is happening in Davie County from businesses to an up-and-coming Veterans facility. Knowing what opportunities and advancements we have locally is important to educators. If educators know more about our industries, they can make relevant connections for students in lessons and activities.  During our tours, we learned about what these industries need to run successfully, and the skill sets needed. This will allow for the connections our students will need in future jobs, careers, and/or further education in our community. This was a great experience.”

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 added. “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.”