The real world: Teachers visit businesses to learn needed skills

Published 1:36 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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By Jeanna B. White

Word Master Media Group

Knowledge is power, especially in education.

This summer, eight educators from Davie County Schools assumed the roles of students, embarking on a journey through local businesses.

Their mission?

To deepen their understanding of the skills demanded by employers to better equip their students for careers.

Over the course of a four-day externship, these educators toured local enterprises such as Ashley Furniture, Avgol, DFA US, DEX Heavy Duty Parts, Dunlop Aircraft Tyres, Fuller Welding & Fabricators, Gildan, Pro Refrigeration,and Sportsfield Specialties.

The tours included a visit to the soon-to-open Veteran’s View Intake Center. Here, participants were introduced to the programs set to be offered to veterans, active service members, their families, and the Davie community. These programs encompassed areas like wellness, vocational rehabilitation (including education and workforce development), temporary residential services, and the Veteran’s Justice Center. The teachers were also briefed on potential volunteer opportunities and internships for students.

This community partnership between Davie County Schools, the Davie County Economic Development Commission (DCEDC), and local industries aims to make students aware of local career opportunities and technological demands.

Through summer externships focusing on Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), educators are reconnected with industries to renew an understanding of practices and technology and the soft skills necessary for success.

Carolyn McManamy, the director of Davie CONNECT, praised this initiative: “The summer externship is a tremendous collaborative effort between Davie County Schools, our Economic Development Commission, Davie CONNECT, and our local businesses.

“This externship offers the opportunity for educators to see 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 and our schools working with our students so that they better understand the connection of education to careers,” McManamy said.

This partnership, initiated in 2014, was initially funded by a $50,000 contribution from the Mebane Charitable Foundation as part of DCEDC’s five-year economic growth plan, “Together We Are Davie.” Recognizing the value of the program, DCEDC assumed sponsorship.

“Each summer, teachers learn from industry leaders about the available job opportunities and the educational prerequisites for each role,” said DCEDC President Terry Bralley. “This has created tremendous awareness and relationships between local industries and our teachers, students, and families. This program empowers teachers to better guide students toward promising career paths while fostering a potential local workforce.”

This year’s participants included: Matthew Barker, STEM English teacher, DCHS;  Tani Caudle, STEM English teacher, DCHS; Jennifer Hanes, Davidson-Davie Community College career coach; Karen Jarvis, chief communications officer, DCS; Corbin Kopetzky,  STEM social studies teacher, DCHS; Stefanie Morris, middle school career development coordinator; Jason Ward, STEM science teacher, DCHS; and Alyse Wooldridge, career development coordinator, DCHS.

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

Morris shared her insights: “This was the first year I participated in teacher externships. I took a new position in the county in January as the career development coordinator for our 5-8 grade students. I took this opportunity to learn more about our county and the businesses that make their homes here.

“This experience taught me a great deal about our economy in Davie County and what companies are looking for in employees. This will be a big help as I talk to students about opportunities in their futures. The most exciting part was being able to see what was here. I have worked with Davie Schools for the past 18 years and never knew a lot of these companies were here or what they do. The amount of sophistication and automation in the manufacturing companies was amazing,” she said.

“I also really enjoyed the Veterans Intake Center. I enjoyed seeing how facets of the community can come together to help each other. The willingness of all of these companies to partner with our schools reinforced that Davie County truly cares about their kids and education, which is not the case in every community,” she said.

Wooldridge agreed.

“The summer externship program is one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy visiting local industries, and I am always amazed at what is being made in Davie County. I enjoy taking what I learn back to other staff members so that we can share it with students. My goal is to showcase the amazing things we do in Davie County so that our students know they can have successful careers without moving,” Wooldridge said.

For local businesses, the externship program provides a platform to educate teachers about the skills demanded by their employees.

“I think it is important for the young men and women who will be graduating to understand what type of careers there are in Davie County,” said Jay Kimura, manufacturing manager. ”A lot of the manufacturing facilities such as Pro Refrigeration can give opportunities to learn a valuable skill set or trade. Having the students visit these facilities gives them options and hopefully gets their minds thinking about how they can make a difference after graduation.

“Currently, we have an Ignite Davie graduate who works in our Component Mount area. Max Gaindo-Martinez came to us eager to learn and with goals that he wanted to achieve. He has proven himself in a very short time. Max will be accompanying one of our seasoned techs out in the field to help with maintenance calls to help service customers.”

Darryl Fournier, VP of operations North America, said Avgol recognizes the importance of strong companies to build strong communities.

“Manufacturing has historically provided good jobs and opportunities, yet many in our schools are unaware of the many career choices that manufacturing offers. Participating in manufacturing externships arms educators with information to share with their students giving them more choices,” he said.

Anthony Davis, director of CTE and federal programs for Davie County High School, expressed his gratitude to the organizations that welcomed the externs into their facilities. He hopes that more businesses will join the cause in the coming summers.

“We are truly trying to create a partnership,”
Davis 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 open lines of communication and collaborative efforts, we can become a valuable resource for addressing workforce shortages in our community. It’s crucial that we ensure students are well-informed about all the opportunities available to them. Our goal is not to steer any child in a direction they do not wish to pursue, but rather, to empower them and their parents with a comprehensive understanding of the abundant possibilities within Davie County,” Davis said.